A four year battle to site a wind farm in the Ochils has finally been won by npower renewables but three other applications have been rejected by the Scottish Executive.
The partial victory was yesterday hailed by objectors who said their lengthy fight had stopped the picturesque landscape becoming “an industrial mass”.
Following a five month long public inquiry, an Executive reporter has determined only the Lochelbank wind farm be allowed, meaning Perth and Kinross Council won on three fronts, losing only one.
Proposals for others at Mellock Hill near Crook of Devon (14 turbines, RDC Scotland Ltd), Little Law at Auchterarder (14 turbines, Greenpower) and nearby Snowgoat Glen (10 turbines, npower) were all again thrown out.
The inquiry was sparked after the council rejected all four proposals, stating none were in keeping with the hills, precious to locals and visitors, and fought the developers’ appeals.
Alison Grave of the Windfarms Action Group (WAG) which led the campaign, said, “While we’re disappointed about Lochelbank, we’re pleased the other three were turned down or the Ochils would have just been an industrial mass of windfarms.”
Reporter Karen Heywood stated the design of Mellock Hill was unacceptable, while its impact on the wider environment also make it undesirable.
Snowgoat Glen and Little Law would have a detrimental impact on the nationally important setting of the Gleneagles Historic Garden and Designed Landscape as well as “significant adverse effects on local environmental quality.”
With schemes for two wind farms— Burnfoot and Greenknowes—already in place in the Ochils, she said the cumulative impact of so many turbines would outweigh the possible benefits.
However, such flaws were not identified with the 12 turbine, 15 megawatt Lochelbank complex.
Ms Heywood said it would be in an area of low visibility, of acceptable design and fits in with development plans.
She concluded, “Drawing these issues together, I have concluded that the proposed wind farm at Lochelbank would comply with the development plan and I have identified no other material considerations which would justify a refusal contrary to the provisions of the plan.”
Mrs Grave said the campaign to stop the developments had been worth fighting, despite the disappointing end result.
She said, “It has united the local communities. We twice had over 1000 objections to the plan and it has made a lot of people aware of what’s going on in the community.
“To keep pursuing it has cost a lot of money, from trying to pay for expert witnesses to simple things like printing documents and materials and you can’t compete with the big developers.”
Although the WAG campaign has ended for now, Mrs Grave said residents will be keen to see the extra surveys ordered by the reporter and could spring back to life if further proposals are laid out for the hills.
But she said, “Surely the Ochils have now reached their capacity when you look at the cumulative impact of Lochelbank, Greenknowes and Burnfoot.”
Frank Park, npower renewables regional development manager, Scotland, said, “This is great news, and justifies our continued support of the scheme.”
The results will also be a relief for the council, which is liable for the developer’s costs in any inquiry it loses.
A spokesman said, “We need to carefully consider these reports from the Executive before making further comment.”
By Alan Richardson
15 August 2007
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