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Campaign group demands greater transparency about windfarm applications

Mearns residents are being warned a wind turbine “gold rush” will continue to gather pace.

Planning permission is being sought or at the scoping stage for 70 wind turbines in the Mearns.

In total, there are more than 800 at various stages of planning in Aberdeenshire and pressure group Concerned About Wind Turbines (CAWT) is cataloguing all developments.

Spokesman Nick Orpwood said 400 commercial wind turbines 50 metres or higher and more than 400 domestic and agricultural turbines less than 50m are at various stages of planning.

The “gold rush” will continue because in Aberdeenshire turbines are permitted 400m from the nearest residence – yet in Fife it is 2km.

The group set up a website (link) to track the various proposed projects and give advice on responding to wind energy applications.

Mr Orpwood said finding out about turbine applications can be extremely difficult. He said many farmers see it as a way of making money to survive in the wake of falling trade and EU cuts.

The EU is taking a fresh look at farming policy as budget constraints weigh heavily on European governments.

Mr Orpwood said: “I’ve got no objection to people making money, but I just don’t think it should be at the expense of others.”

He continued: “Statements have been made in the press by various consultants and developers in the wind business and they have moved out of some areas because of that sort of spacing and gone where it is easier – and where it is easier at the moment is Aberdeenshire.”

CAWT produced a map it says shows the wind turbines in place or proposed in Aberdeenshire. Now it is calling on councils to do the same so residents can see where and how many are in their area.

Mr Orpwood added: “There is a general concern about proliferation and one of our genuine concerns is why is there not a map like the CAWT one which is available to the public? Isn’t that what we pay our rates for?

“One of the big concerns is the time delay. Once you get planning approval it can be two years before they go up. Now in those following two years a lot more applicants can go in and unless you have a map like ours it’s very easy to go on a site visit and think there’s nothing there.

“What you can’t see is the other 30 that are approved but not there.”

Mr Orpwood also disputes what he describes as the general perception that residents will always be informed.

He said: “If you are living in a street and your next door neighbour decides to build an extension, broadly speaking anyone around about 66 foot of that place will actually receive a letter telling them about it. The same applies to a turbine.

“The chances of anybody actually living within 66 foot of a turbine is nil – therefore nobody gets told. So the first thing you find out about it is in the press. In Aberdeenshire there is a whole range of local papers and the planning department decides what paper they put it in.

“Quite often the turbines are not in a particular area – they might be between them. So that notice only goes in one of the papers which a lot of people don’t get.

“The other problem is the fact you have only got 21 days’ notice to find out all about it, understand what is going on and respond to it. That is the predominant reason the website developed, so the information is available to anyone who is concerned.

“The way the planning system works you have to get your foot in the door within the 21 days. If you don’t do that then you haven’t got a voice.”