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Dismay at council "failures" on wind turbine regulations

A failure by Councillors to make any significant changes to planning regulations on controversial wind turbines has produced dismay in Moray.

Councillors agreed that a review of planning procedures for wind turbines should be carried out before the local council elections in 2012, and agreed changes on the minimum distances between turbines and residential property.

However, that decision produced disappointment from community councillors and local campaigners, who were dismayed that there were no significant changes to policy resulting from a meeting of the Planning and Regulatory Services Committee on Tuesday.

Councillors considered a discussion paper on issues surrounding the growing number of applications for the erection of wind turbines in Moray, the paper having emphasis on the distance between planned turbines and residential properties.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting Chris Tuke, Secretary of the Burghead and Cummingston Community Council (BCCC), sent an email to all councillors on the committee. That provided data on wind turbine failures throughout Europe over the last 10 years, and resulting damage to nearby property.

The BCCC have consulted with residents over several wind turbine installations in their area of responsibility.

In a covering letter Mr Tuke said: “We would like to impress on you the grave safety concerns that are being expressed over the proximity of wind turbines to public rights of way and residential properties.

“Safety data is difficult to obtain but an attachment to this e-mail lists numerous failures and their consequences.”

At the meeting councillors attempted to find ways of making immediate improvements to planning policy on wind turbines.

However, it was pointed out by planning officials that any major changes could only be made through a review of the Supplementary Guidance on Wind energy, which was adopted by Moray Council in 2005.

Councillors were informed that a timetable to review the supplementary guidance could not commence until December 2011, prompting the Deputy Convenor, Allan Wright, to say: “The thing about the timing of this review is that I would like to see it completed within the lifetime of this council.

“We may well have a host of new councillors coming to this at very late stages, over which they have no ownership.

“So if we could possibly complete it within the lifetime of this council then I think it would make good sense.”

Officials gave an undertaking that if at all possible that deadline would be met.

The committee had earlier agreed that the distance between a proposed wind turbine and any residential property should be at least 10 times the diameter of the turbine’s blades.

Mr Tuke insisted that did not go nearly far enough. He said: “The idea of 10 times blade diameter as a separation distance was only suggested because it is what some other planning authorities do.

“However of the five examples given in the report, three refer to a 2km separation distance, one refers to 20 times the height of an installation, and only in Aberdeenshire is it 10 times rotor diameter.

“The ten times rotor diameter has been adopted with no regard to potential damage areas in the event of turbine failures or ice-throw.

“In unpopulated areas this is bad enough, but when debris could be thrown into residential areas or onto public thoroughfares and transportation routes, I suggest that is a very different matter.”

Also disappointed at the outcome of the meeting was the spokesman for the Cummingston Residents Action Group, David Townsend.

Mr Townsend said: “From the outset our elected officials, with the exception of our MSP and the Deputy Convener of Moray Council, have remained silent to the public on this scandal.

“Councillor Wright had given them a lifeline by requesting the policy discussion paper, and now it seems they have let that go also, selling us all down the river in the ‘stitch-up’ I predicted.

“I can only hope there will be a flood of public opinion that takes them to task before our beautiful Moray is blighted for the foreseeable future”