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Campaigners in walk-out as turbine approved

Controversial plans to build an 81 metre wind turbine at Methil docks have been approved by councillors.

Yesterday’s decision by members of Fife Council’s Levenmouth area committee caused uproar, with people in the public gallery who had campaigned against the structure branding it a disgrace.

Verbal abuse was hurled at councillors as those living near the site of the turbine left the committee, with some claiming the decision was an affront to democracy.

Council planning officials had received 338 objections from residents against only one letter of support, with those against it fearing the turbine would generate noise and shadow flicker, affect their view, hit tourism and endanger sea birds in the area.

However there were claims the structure, which will provide some power to the Hydrogen Office and Demonstration Centre at the docks, was necessary for the wider regeneration of the area.

The Hydrogen Office will carry out research into the efficiency of hydrogen as a means of storing energy from renewable sources and any excess electricity will be sold to the national grid.

It is linked to a wider project at the Methil Energy Park which is hoped eventually to create up to 1300 jobs in the renewable energies sector.

Permission for the single turbine has been granted for 25 years, after which time it will have to be dismantled and the ground reinstated to its original condition.

In addition, 18 stringent conditions were attached including a ruling that the turbine must be shut down if agreed noise levels are exceeded, and removed entirely if it fails to produce electricity for a continuous period of six months.

Lead planning officer Elspeth Cook told the committee, “This project clearly relates to a renewal and regeneration project for the Methil dockland area.

“It is associated with the energy industry which traditionally uses coastal locations and it is clearly within an area of developed coastline.”

Ms Cooke said the turbine was in line with other tall structures in the area, including the 91 metre high power station chimney, and that the council was satisfied with the results of assessments relating to noise and shadow flicker.

Councillor Andrew Rodger called for the turbine to be placed in a rural setting or within the energy park which is in an industrial area.

“We are causing all this upset to the community, yet we have an energy park just along the road.

“I feel we’re trying to make this fit when we should be looking elsewhere,” he said.

Councillor Marilyn Whitehead also voiced concerns and added, “If we moved it further away from people’s houses it would be better.”

However, committee chairman David Alexander moved the turbine should be approved as many of the objections were not valid.

He was supported by Councillor Tom Adams, who said the potential for jobs could not be ignored.

“Everybody can see the need for regeneration in the area. Over 60% of people in this area don’t have jobs.

“We can’t be short-sighted and say I don’t want a wind turbine in my backyard.

“This could attract investment and I wish people could see that.”

The application by Scottish Enterprise was approved by five votes to two.

By Claire Warrender

The Courier

19 June 2008