Perthshire’s public purse could be set to feel the strain after councillors threw out a controversial wind farm plan.
Members of Perth and Kinross Council’s development control committee voted to turn down an application from Perth-based developers I and H Brown for the 14-turbine Calliachar renewables scheme, on grazing land near Aberfeldy.
Managing director Scott Brown said the scheme would help safeguard the future of the 200-employee firm, but councillors were more concerned about the potential damage to Perthshire’s landscape and tourist industry.
Pointing out that Scottish Natural Heritage did not object to the plan, Browns’ landscape architect Linsey Guthrie insisted the proposed wind farm site is outwith any area designated as important either locally or nationally.
But Councillor Dennis Melloy said he was concerned about the prospect of 560 loads of concrete being transported along the “lifeline” A822 and A826 tourist routes to the moorlands.
With a larger wind farm at nearby Griffin Forest having already been approved, Amulree and Strathbraan Windfarm Action Group spokeswoman Jill Wilson claimed more turbines would put the area’s fragile communities at risk.
“In combination with Griffin, the whole area would become dominated by wind farms,” she insisted.
An earlier plan for 27 turbines was refused consent by Scottish Ministers following a conjoined public inquiry with the nearby Griffin proposal.
Nigel Hawkins from the John Muir Trust said conservationists were “strongly opposed” to the prospect of twinned wind farms potentially adjacent to giant pylons for an upgraded national electricity transmission line – all just 17km from the spectacular Mount Schiehallion.
“We must have more renewables, but in the right place,” he said.
“Highland Perthshire is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.”
Planning consultant Ian Kelly, on behalf of neighbouring Cadogan Estates, said there was no proof of CO² savings via wind farms.
“The government doesn’t know if there’s any benefit at all,” he said.
Another objector was Strathtay member Barbara Vaughan, who said there was no evidence that national targets for renewable energy could not be met without Calliachar.
John Kellas called for the application to be refused on grounds of serious detrimental effect on the landscape.
He was seconded by Ken Lyall, who said approval would go against wildlife and rare bird protection policies.
By contrast, committee top dog Willie Wilson gave the plan the thumbs-up, “with a degree of reluctance”, claiming tourism would remain unaffected.
He was backed by Lorraine Caddell, who said: “I find wind farms an attractive proposition.
“There are places for them and we should always try and make sure they fit with the locality.”
Councillors voted 9-3 to reject the proposals, which could potentially trigger an appeal by the developers to the Scottish Ministers.
The council’s development quality manager Nick Brian had urged councillors to back the scheme.
“Any decision, other than a conditional approval, would be unjustified and could potentially result in a public inquiry which the council is unlikely to satisfactory defend on planning grounds.”
Following the council’s decision, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser yesterday demanded that no more wind farms be allowed in Perthshire.
“Even though the proposed application was smaller than the original proposal, it was sited in the wrong area and would have damaged the local scenery, environment and tourism industry,” he said.
“The last thing that people in Highland Perthshire need is a fresh appeal and this saga continuing for another year.”
by Andrew Welsh
9 May 2008