Questions have been raised about issues of “national interest” and the quality of a wind turbine environmental statement for a prominent site overlooking a large part of the Howe of Fife.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has lodged an objection to the plans for three 100-metre turbines at Clatto Hill, and has stated that it has received insufficient information from Green Cat Renewables and applicant Douglas Rennie, of Clatto Farm.
The plans have attracted many objections from bodies including surrounding community councils and even the MoD, which is concerned about significant risk to air traffic control operations at RAF Leuchars. Many individual residents are also opposing the plans.
Now SNH has said that the proposal could raise natural heritage issues of national interest for a site which lies near special protection areas in the Firth of Forth, Cameron Reservoir, and the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary.
These areas have important wintering bird populations, including pink-footed geese and water fowl, and also breeding terns and marsh harriers.
SNH also expressed concern over the fact that the developer has based its assessment of potential impact on bird populations on data collected during 2002/2003.
The environmental statement, said SNH, does not present a clear and logical process by which target species have been identified through a rigorous scoping process.
SNH has made mention of raptors, and said that if earlier survey work was meant to assess impact, then it is minimal at best.
It has been recommended that the developer should consult with the RSPB, the BTO, the Scottish Raptor Study Group, and bird recorders.
SNH said that no mitigation had been suggested for the impacts likely to occur, such as disturbance of breeding grounds during construction and decommissioning, and displacement of breeding birds during the operational phases.
It has also been pointed out that full details of a badger survey have not been presented, and that badgers and their setts are legally protected.
SNH said that there is evidence of badger activity about a kilometre from the site, the environmental statement does not take account of the fact that the animals can be highly mobile, and there is concern over mitigation measures suggested.
If development activities are likely to result in disturbance to a badger, or involve the damage or destruction of a sett, a licence must be obtained from SNH.
With regard to landscape, SNH has not made a specific objection. It has, however, been critical of the information put forward, and said that its views should carry significant weight.
SNH said there is limited information and no detailed assessment, and it is incorrectly stated that the site is not located in an Area of Great Landscape value.
In addition there are omissions and inaccuracies, and many conclusions are not fully justified and based on a complete understanding of impacts.
It has also emerged that in one of its last acts before disbanding, Kettle Community Council lodged objections to the Clatto Proposal, and the other planned seven-turbine windfarm at nearby Devon Farm.
Former chairwoman Maureen Laing said that given government support for offshore renewable energy, which is “taking off on a huge scale” there is no need to put turbines on sites with detrimental impacts.
The community council said there are 104 houses within 2km of the turbines, and the structures, predominantly with no backcloth, would be highly visible from parts of east Fife.