Plans for two 40 metre-tall wind turbines less than a mile from Traprain Law have been rejected.
East Lothian Council’s planning committee met on Tuesday to decide applications for turbines at Whittingehame Mains and Cockielaw, by farmers Michael Brander and the late Jimmy Clark respectively.
Despite claims from Mr Brander – son of the late author of the same name – that the sites had been selected for minimum visibility, councillors were unanimous in rejecting both turbines.
A large group of objectors packed the meeting, which heard from council planning officer Brian Stalker that the two turbines, both 40.35 metres from ground to blade tip, were proposed to take the place of six smaller turbines – three at each site – which had been granted planning permission in July 2010 but had not yet been built.
A total of 117 objections to the Whittingehame Mains turbine and 86 to the Cockielaw turbine had been received.
Mr Stalker’s report advised rejecting the applications on the grounds of their effect on Traprain Law, stating they would “harmfully compromise the integrity of [the law] as a highly valued, landmark national feature”.
Historic Scotland had also objected, stating that Traprain Law was “one of the most important Iron Age hillforts in Scotland” and that the turbines would “introduce a towering vertical structure within the immediate topographical setting of the scheduled ancient monument of Traprain Law”.
“The introduction of the proposed wind turbines would reduce the capacity to appreciate the dominance and primacy of one of Scotland’s most important and well known hillforts,” it added.
Speaking on behalf of both applications, Mr Brander explained Mr Clark’s application was being continued despite his sudden death last month.
He spoke of his and Mr Clark’s efforts to diversify their farming, use more sustainable methods and, where possible, green energy.
Mr Brander said the area for the turbines had “high average wind speeds combined with relatively low ground”, which meant “reduced visibility compared to many turbines”.
Chartered landscape architect Ross Wilkie also spoke for the applications, explaining that if the applications were refused the six smaller turbines would be built in their place.
He said the proposed two turbines would be “visible in some views”, but not from the A1 or A199.
More than 120 wind turbines, added Mr Wilkie, were currently visible from Traprain Law as well as other man-made structures.
The meeting also heard two representations against the applications.
Luggate resident David Mitchell described Traprain Law as “one of East Lothian’s most iconic features” and said he and other objectors were “worried about putting these huge structures in the wrong places that will do irreparable damage to East Lothian”.
He said the turbines would only benefit the applicants, saying the applications contravened a number of planning policies. The turbines, he said, would be four times taller than nearby buildings and three times higher than “the tallest tree in the county”.
A statement was also read out from Ian Kelly, planning consultant of Sabel (Sustain a Beautiful East Lothian), who said planning conditions meant there should be no option but to reject the applications.
Councillor Paul McLennan, Dunbar and East Linton member, had called the applications off the delegated list because of their “complex nature”. However, he told the meeting that he had not heard anything from Mr Brander to make him change his mind on refusing the applications.
Fellow councillors Norman Hampshire and Jacquie Bell agreed, Mr Hampshire saying he believed that if East Lothian had to have wind turbines they should be further away from settlements, such as in the Lammermuirs.
Councillor David Berry said East Lothian needed to contribute towards renewable energy targets but the county was “doing our bit”.
He described nearby Luggate Burn as a “hidden gem” and that the proposed turbines would be “very intrusive”, although he thanked Mr Brander for the “great job” he was doing in his sustainability efforts.
Councillor Barry Turner, committee convenor, said the turbines were “going to have a detrimental impact on this stunning environment”.
All 12 councillors voted against the applications.