A wind farm on a Mearns hilltop which protestors claim will damage tourism has been given the go-ahead after a public inquiry.
The plan for nine 260ft turbines on St John’s Hill overlooking Kinneff on the Mearns coast came under scrutiny during a week-long inquiry held in the village in October.
The firm behind the scheme, a collaboration between Edinburgh’s FM Developments and the Danish organisation KE Projects, was appealing against Aberdeenshire Council’s refusal to grant it permission for the turbines and associated infrastructure.
The council’s Kincardine and Mearns area committee threw out the plans for the development, which has divided the community, in December.
Almost 750 letters of representation were sent to Aberdeenshire Council officials—468 in support of the development and 279 against.
The scheme, which was supported by planners, sparked concerns about health risks, noise and the wind farm’s visual impact on the rural area.
Among the reasons for refusal given by the area committee were its adverse impact on the character and amenity of the area and its impact on the landscape, on an archaeologically sensitive area and on the Catterline conservation area.
The plan led to the formation of the Barras, Arbuthnott, Catterline and Kinneff Wind farm Action Group (BackWAG) which argued that the wind farm would have a serious impact on tourism and damage local ecology.
Scottish Government Reporter Malcolm Mahony, however, has concluded that the objections could not be sustained.
His report says the wind farm would not be visible from any significant tourist spot, including Dunnottar Castle, the Grassic Gibbon Centre and the churches at Kinneff and Arbuthnott, and was therefore unlikely to deter visitors.
He dismissed claims that the project would be detrimental to Bloomfield Cottage, the childhood home of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the Scots author.
He was not persuaded by ecological arguments, saying, “Generally, the area is in intensive agricultural use and constitutes habitats of little ecological value.”
He said that the developers had done enough to satisfy Scottish Natural Heritage that measures would be taken to reduce the collision risk for pink-footed geese and that the RSPB had no objection regarding the impact of the wind farm on skylarks.
Surveys failed to find signs of otter, water voles, badgers or red squirrels in habitat around the site.
He concluded, “No designated areas, species or habitats are adversely affected, the historic environment would not be harmed and impacts on communities and other interests have been satisfactorily addressed.”
He has granted outline planning consent but opponents still have six weeks to apply to the Court of Session to have the decision overturned.
By Liz Fowler
6 December 2007
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