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Residents hit out over wind farm 'greed'  

Downsized proposals for a wind farm in a Moray forest are still visually and environmentally unacceptable, claim local residents.

Energy company AMEC last week submitted a revised application for a 13 turbine wind farm at Aultmore Forest, Drybridge, near Buckie.

Locals say the development would scar a scenic landscape for nothing more than commercial greed.

AMEC has twice reduced the size of the proposed development, from an original 31 in 2002 to 20 turbines and now down to 13.

In ‘The Northern Scot’ last week, David Hodkinson, managing director of the firm’s wind energy business, believed the development, on land owned by the Forestry Commission, now fitted with people’s expectations in the area. “During the consultation, people to the north of the site were saying it was too close to their homes so we have shrunk it to the south,” he said.

However, the application met with strong opposition this week from residents whose homes border the site, which is around 800 metres above sea level to the south of Buckie.

One resident, Andrew Poyner, believes the development is inappropriate regardless of the number of turbines. While reducing the number of turbines, the developer has increased the height of them from those originally proposed, he said.

“We have the Bin Hill locally and these turbines will be 60 metres taller. Visually they are going to be immense and will tower over the existing natural landscape.”

Residents believe AMEC’s decision to cut the development to just 13 turbines is an attempt to gain permission, which will be followed by attempts to add extra turbines in the next few years. The original forest area remains within the current planning application.

The application will be determined by Moray Council and residents have until the end of November to register support or objections for the development.

Mr Poyner, whose home at Shielmuir will be just two kilometres from the site, claims Moray has a ridiculous number of wind farms, either operational, with planning permission or proposed.

And while he understands the siting of wind farms on remote moorland with no homes close by, Mr Poyner said the proposal for Aultmore does not fit with the local landscape.

“The landscape is fabulous and it is a shame to ruin it. A vast proportion of the forest is going to be felled to make way for a wind farm. Ecologically it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“I know the Forestry Commission are strapped for cash but there must be other ways. If these (energy) companies didn’t get grants from Government I wonder how many would do it (wind farms) themselves.”

Aside from the visual and environmental concerns, local residents are also anxious at the likely impact on their water supply.

Many of them are serviced by natural spring sources and they believe the construction work could have a severe impact.

“Our spring sits about one kilometre downhill from the proposed sit. That spring serves 15 other properties and has been there for 150 years and has never failed. We can’t get a guarantee from AMEC that there won’t be a problem,” said Mr Poyner.

Tricia Greenwood, secretary of Rathven and Arradoul Community Council, said it was vehemently opposed to the proposal in any shape.

She said: “We (residents) don’t count as far as AMEC is concerned. Moray is already producing more than 100% of the electricity it needs through wind farms. All Moray is going to be is a giant wind farm for the UK.”

Another resident, Ann Smith, admitted she was absolutely devastated at the prospect of wind turbines. “It is in the wrong place and for the wrong reasons. It is purely commercial greed. We have to hope that small, unimportant people do still have a voice in the countryside.

“It is the fat cats who stand to gain and local people will lose. The community benefits are likely to be less than 1% of the profits (of the wind farm).”

There are more than 250 properties within a 5km radius of the proposed wind farm and the forest forms part of a local cycle trail and is a haven for wildlife, say the residents.

Sarah Henderson, whose home borders the wind farm site, said tourists and visitors come to the Moray countryside for the peace, solitude and scenery, and this proposal would represent visual mutilation.

Aultmore and the wider Moray area is synonymous with walking trails, whisky and wild places, she added, and tourists would be frightened away from Moray with such developments.

Dr Henderson said it was inconceivable to erect wind turbines, recently voted the No 1 eyesore in a BBC and MORI poll, at a time when Moray is developing a tourism strategy.

“Once this process has been started it is iredeemable and you can’t stop the juggernaut,” she said.

John and Janet van Rossen claimed the Forestry Commission had a duty to maintain, manage and protect woodland which is in public ownership and increase it value to society.

“How are they protecting Aultmore Forest when they are industrialising it with wind turbines?” they asked.

By Chris Saunderson

The Northern Scot

2 November 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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