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Councillor claims Gateside wind turbine is evidence of planning system ‘deception’

Guidelines surrounding wind turbine applications are “deceptive” and could lead to the nation’s countryside being “desecrated,” a councillor has claimed.

The stark warning comes after a controversial turbine was erected in countryside close to the north east Fife village of Gateside.

Mike Scott-Hayward, who represents the East Neuk and Landward ward, said ambiguous applications for such structures are leaving people with little notion as to the “horrors” that could be constructed.

“I believe there are a number of planning lessons that can be learned from this particular application,” he said. “The general public probably thought that as a single wind turbine over 15 metres was applied for, the final structure would be about that height.

“In fact the distance to the tip of the blade is 48 metres – more than three times what most people probably imagined. Having seen the height quoted as 15 metres they may think that proposals like this one are not particularly significant.”

Mr Scott-Hayward said he would like to caution people – the public and fellow councillors alike – from coming to such conclusions.

“To say the application is for a turbine ‘over 15 metres high’ is almost meaningless. Does that mean it could end up being 1000 metres high?” he asked.

Mr Scott-Hayward said he was “not convinced” all councillors had understood quite how tall the Gateside turbine would be prior to the application being approved by a singe vote.

“I believe it is too big for the location – it stands out considerably,” he said. “You can see it from the road and it could easily cause driver distraction.

“I am also concerned that, should something come adrift from the structure, it could cause a major danger to those on the nearby road.

“I appreciate that is not very likely but there is an important principle at stake and councillors need to be aware of that.”

Mr Scott-Hayward urged members of the public and fellow elected members to visit the site of the turbine for themselves.

“This gives a good indication of what a 50m structure looks like in the countryside,” he said. “It is perhaps something people can bear in mind when looking at other windfarm applications.

“One can now perhaps imagine how several turbines of 100 or even 150 metres high would look. I will be asking for a site visit to be arranged so councillors can fix in their perceptions the relative scale of these turbines.”

Mr Scott-Hayward said, “I want people to beware of the deception – a turbine ‘over 15 metres high’ could end up being anything.”

The councillor also bemoaned the lack of any “cohesive” planning guidelines to govern the development of windfarms and smaller-scale single turbines throughout not just Fife, but across the country.

“There does not seem to be any kind of a policy which would mitigate the impact a proliferation of wind turbines could have on our countryside,” he said. “I believe that is something which really needs to be investigated.”

The councillor added that many people, including countless farmers, were simply joining a “goldrush” to develop renewable energy.

He warned that the Scottish Government’s determination to meet stringent targets could lead to numerous applications being given the green light, regardless of the potentially “devastating” impact on the nation’s famous natural landscape.