Officials fail in attempt to stop bid for wind turbine
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MoD claimed that development would interfere with UK air defence systems
Ministry of Defence officials have failed to block a north-east farmer’s bid to build a 260ft wind turbine near Peterhead, despite fears that it could impact on the UK’s air defence systems.
Buchan firm Ednie Farms wants to put up a turbine powered by blades more than 200ft in diameter on land at Bruxiehill, St Fergus.
A top MoD representative travelled to Peterhead yesterday to warn councillors that the plan could hamper attempts to track enemy aircraft.
Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Buchan area committee, however, voted 8-2 in favour of the scheme, which will now go to the Scottish Government for a final decision.
The MoD had objected to the proposal on the grounds that the turbine tower could interfere with its radar equipment, based a few miles away at the RAF Buchan technical site near Boddam.
The plans were recommended for refusal by Aberdeenshire Council planners, who were concerned about the “integrity” of the air defence radar system.
Last night, Julian Chafer, head of safeguarding with the MoD, said he was in “no doubt” that the proposals would affect Britain’s air defences if it went ahead.
Personnel at RAF Buchan have scanned the northern skies for hostile activity for more than half a century. Controllers keep vigil over radar screens, checking for any indication of enemy aircraft approaching UK airspace.
Despite the camp being sold off three years ago, the MoD maintains a radar presence in the north-east, a presence that is still crucial for protecting UK airspace.
The proposed turbine would be erected just over six miles from the air defence radar at RAF Buchan – three miles too close, according to defence experts.
Mr Chafer told councillors that the MoD was concerned the turbine would have a detrimental impact on the UK’s air surveillance capability, potentially leaving gaps in its radar.
“This turbine would be too close to the radar at RAF Buchan,” he said.
Applicant Elaine Booth argued that the proposals had more benefits than potential drawbacks.
She said: “The wind turbine has the potential to produce 1.3megawatts of energy, enough to power 730 homes, which is half of the households in the St Fergus and Lonmay ward.
“This is important to the business because we need to look at diversifying and we feel that a wind turbine offers us the best option.
“We have asked many of the residents in the area for their opinion and it has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Ms Booth’s agent, Gavin Catto, argued that the way the MoD assessed wind turbine applications was flawed.
He said the applicants had carried out independent surveys of the potential impact on radar and these had concluded that the MoD could “live with” the effects of the turbine.
Following the meeting, Mr Chafer said he was not surprised by the decision of the councillors because wind energy was a “very emotive and controversial” subject. “We will now put our evidence to Scottish ministers,” he said.
By Ryan Crighton
14 May 2008
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