Planning chiefs in Fife have been accused of “deliberately obscuring” potentially controversial aspects of applications when making recommendations to councillors.
Campaigners are so disillusioned that they have written to every councillor in Fife, insisting it is the only way to secure a “genuinely fair” assessment of contentious windfarm proposals.
The Clatto Landscape Protection Group (CLPG) believes planning chiefs cannot be trusted, accusing them of “sidelining” evidence in reports for elected members.
A spokesman said the group had taken the “unusual step” of going “over the heads” of officials to ensure “all the evidence” is laid bare.
He said: “We want a genuinely fair assessment of proposals to plant 10 giant turbines in the heart of the community.
“CLPG is among nearly 300 objectors concerned about the visual impact turbines would have Clatto Hill.
“We fear planning officials will not assess the proposals fairly.”
In their open letter, members cite a recently approved scheme for similarly sized turbines at Earlseat, just north of Kirkcaldy.
They claim the visual impact of the turbines on villages nearby was “deliberately obscured” in the report prepared for councillors by planning staff.
CLPG chairman Greg Brown said he feared a “similar approach” would be taken to the two Clatto Hill applications.
He said: “Available evidence, such as it was, pointed to a significant visual impact on local people.
“However, this evidence was sidelined.”
Mr Brown said Fife Council’s policy to only support windfarms if there is “no significant impact” on communities is being ignored.
He fears a dangerous precedent has been set.
Mr Brown said: “As part of our objection to the Clatto Hill turbine applications, CLPG sent the council an independently-compiled map showing all homes within two kilometres of turbine positions and there are 114 of them.
“We have no confidence the officials will take any notice of the visual impact of the proposed turbines at those homes.”
He added: “Our concerns are further magnified by the time it is taking to bring the two applications before councillors.
“Both applications are nearly a year and a half old… reports were prepared months ago but there is no sign of them being tabled at any council committee.”
Mr Brown said the CLPG’S letter aimed to ensure an “informed judgment”.
He said: “A horrendous prospect is in store for Fife residents and visitors alike if increasing numbers of windfarms are built in the wrong places.”
When contacted by The Courier, council development management lead officer Chris Smith said “a considerable number of letters of representations” had been received over the Clatto Farm and Devon Wood proposals.
He insisted both were being “rigorously assessed” and that “all planning matters” – including visual and landscape impact – would be given “full consideration”.
Mr Smith said: “These reports will also include a detailed assessment of each of the relevant national and local policy issues and guidance associated with such developments, consideration of all issues raised by interested third parties and the developer, as well as the comment and advice received from all those who were formally consulted as part of the process.
“Members of these committees will also have access to all the related plans and information, letters received, and any other materially relevant documentation before making a formal decision.”
Mr Smith said issues raised by the CLPG, including the proximity of the turbines to homes, would be referred to in future reports.
He also insisted “detailed consideration” had been given to concerns regarding the Earlseat proposal.
However, Mr Smith said it was “unwise” to make direct comparisons between that and Clatto Hill.
Regarding concern over the time taken to determine the applications, he said one and half years was “not unusual given the scale and location of the schemes” and the associated need for “detailed and thorough” assessment and consultation.
He said: “The council would like to reiterate and assure CLPG and all other interested parties that the applications for both Clatto and Devon Wood are being rigorously assessed and all the matters raised by them and all other contributors will form part of the final officers’ assessment.”
[also published online as: “Clatto Landscape Protection Group accuses council planners of deliberately obscuring true scale of windfarms”. See link.]
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