A public meeting about proposed Angus turbines remained civilised but left the company behind the plans in no doubt as to the strength of feeling on the subject.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has applied to put up two turbines on its Cobden Street site in Montrose, and Montrose Academy was the scene for talks on Wednesday evening involving Montrose Community Council, residents and the firm.
A ”global sustainability ambitions” presentation was given by Montrose site director Andy Ross, and talks on the Montrose sustainability strategy and the wind turbine proposal were given by renewable energy manager Ian Morrow.
Mr Ross said: ”As a company and a society, it is clear the world around us is changing. To our industry as a whole, it’s crucial we grasp this challenge.”
Mr Morrow said: ”When I got into this job I thought we would be able to do everything by marine power, but that’s not feasible. Wind is the here and now of energy generation.”
Mr Morrow fielded questions on the feasibility of siting the turbines elsewhere and of reducing their height.
”We looked at putting them at 60% of the height where they would be in the application, and they would only generate 17% of the electricity,” he said.
As to moving the turbines from Cobden Street and paying to transport power back to the plant, he added: ”Why would we want to pay six pence for each unit of our own energy when we can pay nothing for it?”
During the debate, Montrose Society president Sandy Munro said: ”If you had a site in the Fountainhead Brewery in Edinburgh and applied to do this, you would have no chance.”
Resident Peter Coatson said: ”I came here with an open mind and wanted to believe this was the right move for Montrose. But I am sorry – I think it just seems the right move for Glaxo. It seems to me there is a veiled threat that jobs could go if the turbines don’t go ahead.”
Mr Ross said: ”The last couple of years have seen us come out of a rocky period. This proposal will only make us more competitive – the future is not entirely dependent on wind turbines.”
One woman newly arrived in Montrose said residents had to look at the Cobden Street site for many years and asked for a Ferryden resident’s advice on what the difference would be of looking at turbines.
A female Ferryden resident said: ”Yes we do look out on to the GSK site, but when we open our curtains we’re going to see these turbines from every window of our house. It’s not the bonniest sight just now, but it would be a lot worse.”
Ferryden resident Ian Payton queried the type of application made by the firm for the turbines. As site owners they would normally fill in a type A application, but filled in a type B non-owner form instead.
Senior council planning official Rachel Green said that due to one of the proposed blades leaving the south-eastern tip of the site in its swing, the decision was taken on the B form.
Planning consultant Robert Matthew said individual and group representations would be welcomed by the council until May. A special subcommittee of the development standards committee would likely meet on the subject at the beginning of that month.
As this puts the decision date at the time of Angus Council’s elections, it looks like Montrose’s hour of judgment will be a key political issue in the coming months.