It was the beginning of the end this week for the massive inquiry into wind farms in Perth and Kinross.
The final three-week hearing started in Perth’s Salutation Hotel on Tuesday and under the spotlight was the region-wide effect of several windfarms.
Karen Haywood, the Scottish Executive official chairing the inquiry, explained four wind farms were at the centre of the hearing ““ Snowgoat Glen, near Dunning, Lochelbank, near Glenfarg, Mellock Hill, near Kinross, and Little Law, near Auchterarder.
In 2005, Perth and Kinross Council refused each one planning permission, but appeals by the various applicants prompted individual inquiries for each proposed wind farm ““ a lengthy process which started last year.
On Tuesday, Ms Haywood explained: “This is the final conjoined session, heard for all four together.”
Up for discussion was the cumulative effect of all windfarms across the region.
Graham Esson, a Perth and Kinross planning official, opened the proceedings. He wasted no time in telling the hearing: “The cumulative impact of Little law, Mellock Hill, Snowgoat Glen and Lochelbank, with the nearby consented project at Green Knowes and the scheme under construction at Braes of Doune, will be considerable.”
He explained: “The council’s decision to refuse all four of these proposals should not be seen as an indication of the lack of commitment by the council to contribute to meeting renewable energy targets or reducing carbon emissions.
“All it indicates is that it was faced with a series of unacceptable proposals.”
Mr Esson, a planner for at least 23 years, stressed the council is committed to playing a part in responding to climate change, but added: “A balance has to be struck between the need to make provision for renewable energy schemes and the need to protect the natural environment and local amenity.”
Demonstrating the value of the area’s landscape, he explained tourism is of vital importance to the region ““ accounting for nearly 14 per cent of jobs in Perthshire.
And in his report before the inquiry, he added: “Evidence suggests that landscape, the scenery and the environment that they provide are important influences in the choice of Scotland and Perth and Kinross as a holiday destination.
“Almost 30 per cent of the responses recorded in the VisitScotland survey considered that wind farms detracted from the landscape.
“Consequently, the potential impact from the loss of tourism has to put in the balance of costs and benefits.”
Mr Esson backed up the council’s decision to knock-back planning permission for the windfarms by claiming each was at odds with the local authority’s Development Plans for the respective areas.
And addressing Reporter Ms Haywood, he added: “As a consequence, I would respectfully ask that all four of these appeals should be dismissed.”
The hearing is scheduled to last until at least March 20, with representations expected from NPower, Green Power, RDC Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Ramblers’ Association Scotland.
By Jenny Wood
2 March 2007
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