The lax planning guidelines operated by Aberdeenshire Council regarding wind turbines has been called into question by Stewart Stevenson MSP.
The local authority has been flooded with applications for industrial-sized structures because it allows them to be built within 400 metres of the nearest properties, whereas most councils stipulate 2,000 metres.
Already more than 450 turbines have been erected in Aberdeenshire in recent years, and there are applications pending for a similar number.
It makes the area the wind capital of the UK, and there is increasing public anger over loss of amenity and the effect the structures are having on the rural landscape.
Now Banff and Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson – a strong advocate of wind power – has written to Aberdeenshire Council chief executive Colin Mackenzie stating: “I believe it is now time to consider whether the policy set by other councils, where it is 2km, is appropriate for use by Aberdeenshire Council.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman told the Banffshire Journal: “The Aberdeenshire Local Plan policy does not state a minimum distance between turbines and dwellings, although it does highlight that this distance is not expected to be below 400 metres.
“The actual distance will depend on the individual circumstances of the application concerned, and will also take account of such matters as possible shadow flicker, noise, visual intrusion and safety issues.
“Scottish Planning Policy does not outline minimum separation distances between turbines and dwellings either. The reference to two kilometres within Scottish Planning Policy relates to areas of search for wind farms over 20MW.
“Each application is treated on its own merits and is guided by the policies of the development plan. The current policy was reviewed as part of the preparation of the proposed Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan and is being considered by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers.”
Mr Stevenson’s letter followed a meeting with a Cornhill constituent opposed to wind turbines.
The constituent, who did not want named, said this week: “There is growing public disquiet about turbines as people find them suddenly sprouting up next to them.
“More people are also finding out that turbines are not all they are cracked up to be.”
She also claimed councillors are not listening to their constituents.
She added: “The whole planning process is already weighted toward the proponent, such as the unfair way that proponents can re-apply for their proposal time and again when the objectors have no third right of appeal as they do in Ireland.
“More often than not, our councillors overrule the planning department when an application has been recommended for refusal. That happened with the Muirake and Strath of Brydock turbines when the Banff and Buchan councillors voted unanimously to overrule the planners. Buchan councillors have already approved three schemes near Longside against the Ministry of Defence’s advice.
“Who are our councillors looking after?
“We also want Aberdeenshire Council to lower the height of what is considered a ‘domestic’ turbine because different requirements apply to them. In Aberdeenshire it is set at under 50 metres, in Moray it is less than 40 metres.”
Last week, around 20 campaigners fighting to halt the march of wind turbines who protested outside Aberdeenshire Council’s seminar for councillors which allowed a member of the renewables industry to speak to them for 10 minutes but denied wind opponents a voice. Nick Orpwood, spokesman for Cuminestown-based group Concerned About Wind Turbines, said the seminar was not designed to give councillors the full picture. “There was nobody to put forward the negative points regarding wind turbines, or to raise concerns about the entire planning process in Aberdeenshire,” he said.
• Banff and Buchan area committee will today (Tuesday) discuss planning applicaions for three adjacent 80-metre high turbines at Backhill of Culbirnie, Hill of Culbirnie and Little Blairshinnoch at Hilton near Banff.
Planning officials are recommending refusal of all three applications on the grounds they would have an adverse impact on the visual and residential amenity of nearby residential properties; they would have a detrimental impact on landscape character, composition and quality of the area; and the cumulative impact of the development would be unacceptable; and they would have an adverse impact on the setting and integrity of category A-listed Inchdrewer Castle and Duff House and category B-listed Mains of Badavie buildings
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