An expert witness told the public inquiry on Wednesday that the consent already granted to the Green Knowes wind farm, five kilometres south of Auchterarder, had, to some extent, “set a precedent” for turbine development in the Ochil Hills.
But landscape architect Sam Oxley added: “That does not mean that further wind farm developments is automatically acceptable. But it will, in some sense, reduce the sensitivity to further appropriate development.”
Ms Oxley, who is employed by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), was giving evidence on behalf of NPower Renewables Ltd. who have appealed against rejection of their planned developments at Snowgoat Glen, near Dunning, and Lochelbank, near Glenfarg.
“Site specific” inquiries have already been held for these two schemes, along with those proposed for Mellock Hill, near Crook of Devon (RDC Scotland Ltd.), and Little Law, near Auchterarder (GreenPower International Ltd.).
The potential cumulative visual and landscape impacts of the four projects are now coming under the microscope at a “conjoined” inquiry which opened in the Salutation Hotel, Perth, on Tuesday.
Ms Oxley explained that the Lochelbank site is located in the Eastern Ochils, with the other appeal sites in the Central Ochils.
She added: “I consider that the Eastern Ochils do have capacity to accommodate compact windfarm developments, in appropriate locations, without significantly altering the existing wider character of the area.”
The Lochelbank windfarm would comprise 12 turbines and she submitted that the relatively tight cluster of compactly spaced turbines, grouped on a rolling plateau, would have a “limited direct impact” upon the landscape.
“The detailed topography of the site and the Ochils in this location, and the relatively low elevation of the site, are such that substantial significant effects upon the wider landscape will be unlikely,” she argued.
“The capacity of this area to accommodate such developments, without adversely affecting its character, will not, therefore, in my opinion, be exceeded.”
She explained that the already-approved, 18-turbine Green Knowes windfarm, and a further three proposed ““ at Snowgoat Glen (10 turbines), Mellock Hill (14 turbines) and Little Law (14 turbines) ““ would result in 56 being erected in the Central Ochils, if all were approved.
“It is my view that the consenting of all three appeal sites in this locality would create a “˜wind energy landscape,’ exceeding the capacity of the Ochil Hills to accommodate wind farm development in landscape terms,” she submitted.
“The landscape in the vicinity of Snowgoat Glen has some capacity for development without significantly altering the landscape characteristics. The site is partially visually contained by forests and land form and will be influenced by the consented scheme at Green Knowes.
“In my view it would be preferable to locate a second wind farm in the Central Ochils where it is part of a cluster of well-designed associated wind farms which relate together in terms of scale, form and complementarities of schemes.
“This is reinforced by Scottish Natural Heritage in their Supplementary Statement of Case, where they say that well-designed wind farms located or clustered in suitable areas would have significantly lower impacts than a more dispersed development pattern.
“The Snowgoat Glen scheme has some design and locational assets which could enable it to work as a cluster in association with Green Knowes within a landscape where there is acknowledged capacity for wind farm development.”
The Mellock Hill proposals, explained Ms Oxley, would have a “larger footprint” than Snowgoat Glen and she added: “The scheme will contribute significantly to the assessed cumulative views from both north and south.”
Little Law would similarly have a larger footprint than Snowgoat Glen.
“Of the three appeal sites in the Central Ochils, I consider that the scheme at Snowgoat Glen would cause the least cumulative impact in that it has some synergy with Green Knowes.”
Ms Oxley concluded: “The cumulative effects described in my precognition are an inevitable consequence of the demand for a large number of renewable energy developments, in the form of onshore wind farms, in a relatively small country such as Scotland.”
The inquiry continues.
By Les Stewart
2 March 2007
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