May 5, 2011

Group fears landowners are pushing turbine envelope north of Dunfermline

By Craig Smith, The Courier, Published 04.05.11

An environmental protection group has expressed its fears that developers seem to be engaged in a “race to profit” from setting up wind turbines in an area deemed unsuitable for their use.

SPOT Fife says it has serious concerns about the number of wind turbine applications coming forward for a zone north of Dunfermline, which has already been earmarked by Fife Council as unsuitable due to the area’s high landscape value.

The comments came after a further two developers submitted proposals in the last week, adding to an already high number apparently in the pipeline.

Intelligent Land Investments, on behalf of Lochend Farm, has submitted a proposal for a 79m (260ft) turbine in the area, while VG Energy Ltd, on behalf of Newbigging Farm, has proposed a 33m (110ft) turbine.

Highlighting residents’ worries, SPOT Fife chairman Andrew Turner said councillors are beginning to recognise the possible proliferation of these wind turbines as a serious problem and expressed his group’s views.

“Fife Council has taken the time to evaluate the suitability of each part of the kingdom for wind turbines and chosen to exclude this area, identifying it as being ‘unsuitable’ in order to protect the historic setting of the city of Dunfermline,” he said.

“And yet developers seem to be competing with each other to put unsuitably large turbines, each larger than the Wallace Monument, in this area.

“At least some of the earlier proposals have made an attempt to evaluate the landscape, but the haste shown by more recent developers to secure their place in the queue, with increasingly out-of-scale proposals, has seen this valuable work either not undertaken or riddled with ‘cut and paste’ errors from proposals in other counties.”
Retirement income

Mr Turner suggested that many farmers in the area “thinking about their retirement” may see wind turbines as an opportunity for a long-term annual income from generous feed-in tariffs.

But he added, “This however means that proposals are being driven by the needs of land owners, rather than the environmental suitability of the projects, in line with Fife Council’s carefully mapped plans; leading to a race to submit ever more speculative projects to planning before Fife Council creates a policy on these random projects.”

Similar applications have been submitted to Fife Council recently, with SPOT highlighting the applications from Green Cat Renewables on behalf of Lynnside for a 67m (220ft) turbine; Locogen on behalf of Cowdens Farm for three turbines each of 87m (285ft); and Wind Direct Ltd on behalf of Noble Foods at Hill Top Farm for a 70m (230ft) anemometry mast for measuring wind speed as a precursor to wind turbine development as examples of these.

This, it reckons, brings the number of structures either set up or in the planning process in an area measuring 4km to 4km to a total of 22.

Graeme Whyte, Dunfermline Bellyeoman community councillor and vice-chairman of Auchtermuchty Landscape and Environment Group, has also added his views, suggesting that developers may be trying to take advantage of a loophole which suggests single turbines or smaller-scale developments of industrially sized turbines may be more easily accommodated into the landscape.

“We are now seeing a rash of applications in unsuitable areas, which contribute negligible amounts to Scotland’s power requirements, but completely undermine the council’s plans for developing the historic city into a culturally important landmark location,” he said.

“Until Fife Council can tackle this issue through firm policies, its ambitions for Dunfermline and Fife will be held to ransom by a handful of developers looking to turn a fast profit.”

Each planning application will have to be considered on its own merits, with any objections likely to be considered by councillors at a later date.

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