Stirling councillors have set out their response to Scottish Ministers after being asked to explain why they went against their own planners’ advice and backed a new windfarm.
Planning officials told Stirling Council’s planning panel this week it wasn’t for them to answer to Scottish Ministers on the Craigengelt windfarm decision as they had recommended members refuse the application.
The panel had voted by a majority in December to approve the Scotia Wind Ltd application for eight turbines at the site in Carron Valley.
But ministers recently came back to ask for details as to why the proposal was approved, particularly as it was contrary to the planners’ recommendation.
Lib-Dem councillor Graham Reed said that among the reasons for accepting the application were that it met a national need for renewable energy from wind, they had considered the site to have a limited visual and environmental impact, that it would be linked with underground cables not overhead pylons, and that the route used during the construction phase had been given careful consideration.
He added: “The applicants brought forward a competent application that was backed by wide consultation and last but not least that there was direct community benefits in terms of income streams generated for the community.”
Panel chairman Councillor Alasdair MacPherson said: “There has been a letter of complaint from Scotia Wind about the time it has taken to get to this stage.”
Head of planning Mick Stewart said the matter had come back to the panel as the planners didn’t feel it was their “place” to say why the application was approved as they had recommended it be rejected.
He added: “At the December meeting we should have actually asked the panel to confirm the reasons for approval, and in some ways it was an oversight. I can only apologise.
“However, this was not the only delay. The longest delay was sending it to Scottish Ministers because we had to go back to consultees such as Scottish Natural Heritage.
“When we get something like this we get extensive conditions suggested from people like SNH, but we had to reopen the debate with them.”
The main objector to the Craigengelt windfarm – which would be Stirling’s third – was Scottish Natural Heritage, which was concerned about views from Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument.
As well as the cumulative impact with the Earlsburn windfarm, it complained the turbines would appear twice as tall as those on the controversial Braes of Doune site.
Council planners had recommended refusal on similar grounds, but some councillors disagreed, with David Goss, Andrew Simpson, Graham Reid, Jim Thomson, Alasdair MacPherson and Scott Farmer voting to give the windfarm the go-ahead. Margaret Brisley and Tony Ffinch voted against.
Councillor Brisley had said she would have preferred to consider the application once a landscape study was available, but heard that the applicants had submitted the proposal before the study was commissioned.
28 March 2008
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