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Warning over university’s windfarm

Plans by St Andrews University to tackle spiralling energy costs by building a windfarm “understate the development’s adverse impact”, opponents have warned.

The Kenly Landscape Protection Group insists the six 100m turbines proposed by university chiefs would have a devastating effect on the historic burgh.

The group, hastily established to raise awareness of the application, this week lodged a “formal objection” to the proposal.

The 28-page dossier has been prepared by Ian Kelly, head of planning at chartered surveying firm Graham and Sibbald.

Also lodged is a critique of the “landscape and visual impacts” section of the applicant’s environmental statement, prepared by Mark Steele Consultants.

Protection group spokesman John Goodwin said: “The objection addresses all the national and local policy issues that should be assessed by Fife Council… outlining the non-compliance with planning policy of the height of the turbines and their visual impact on the setting of St Andrews.”

Objectors believe the impact on not only St Andrews but also communities closer to the site of the wind farm – including Boarhills and Kingsbarns – would be considerable.

Mr Goodwin said: “The applicant has understated the impact on St Andrews and that has carried through to the more local impacts on the neighbouring communities of Boarhills, Kingsbarns and Dunino.

“Our landscape architect’s conclusion is that the environmental statement (prepared on the university’s behalf) understates the significance of visual effects, is inadequate and cannot be relied upon.”

He added: “We hope the planning service will give as careful consideration to the local visual impact on the surrounding communities as has been given to the impact on St Andrews.”

The protection group also expressed concern over a letter – highlighted in The Courier last week – from council planning officials to the university.

It stated that the turbines proposed may be too high but suggests a compromise could be found.

Mr Goodwin said: “While the advice given to the university was welcome, the kind of recommendations being made might better have formed a part of pre-application discussions.

“Once the application is made, that is what has to be determined and we are advised that any substantial alteration to the proposal, as recommended by Fife Council, would require a new application.”

The landscape protection group’s formal objection includes graphic illustrations, showing how the proposed turbines would be more than three times higher than the iconic St Rule’s Tower, which stands at 33 metres.

The organisation warns of an “adverse impact on the tourism and recreational interests” of the St Andrews Links and West Sands beach should the plan be given the green light.

University officials point out that the institution’s energy bills have tripled in the last five years and now top an eye-watering £5.4 million a year.

They said the 12MW windfarm would provide not only energy for the national grid but also steady income.

Pledging to work with the local authority to mitigate any objections, a spokeswoman said the institution remains “fully committed” to the project.

She said: “It will help reduce carbon emissions, help the university meet our Scottish Government renewables targets, help increase the £300 million annual contribution which the university already makes to the Fife economy and hopefully add to Fife’s growing reputation in Scotland and Europe as a leader in the development and application of renewable technologies.”