Anti-windfarm campaign group CLPG has made an official complaint to Fife Council claiming its planning service made a “catalogue of mistakes” in dealing with the two most recent turbine applications for Clatto Hill.
Stating it believes the service is “institutionally resistant” to windfarm opposition, Clatto Landscape Protection Group said it was dismayed officials recommended approval of plans by West Coast Energy and Green Cat Renewables for a total of eight turbines on Clatto Hill, given that they believe the plans were contrary to several planning policies.
In the last fortnight the applications were given the thumbs down by councillors on both the north east Fife and Levenmouth area committees with just two out of a total of 21 councillors voicing support.
In the letter to chief executive Ronnie Hinds, CLPG cites two major reasons for complaint: the lack of proper assessment of the visual impact of turbines – eight of which would be 115 metres high – on the local community, and the apparent lack of a comprehensive assessment of proposals against relevant policies.
It also criticises the planning service for allowing a major change in West Coast Energy’s plans – reducing the number of turbines from seven to five – to be dealt with by means of planning conditions rather than by lodging a new application.
The campaign group said it believes Fife’s senior planners are wholly resistant to any idea that giant wind turbines can have an adverse impact on people living close to them.
CLPG also claims planners’ reports were originally written to recommend refusal but that they were altered to take the opposite view.
A spokesman for the group said: “The planners did not gather together the basic information needed to assess the visual impact on local communities….They allowed inaccurate information in the applicants’ supporting documents to go uncriticised. And they did not apply the Local Plan policy which protects local communities from ‘significant adverse impact’. Statutory consultees even drew attention to such impacts but planners ignored them in their summing up.”
CLPG goes on to list a number of specific areas of complaint including the lack of access to responses given by consultees including a report by a landscape specialist and an alleged conflict of interest between the firm which compiled the ‘impartial’ Environmental Impact Assessment and one of the applicants.
The group went on to accuse council planners of failing to adequately scrutinise specific problems such as driver distraction and noise – two factors raised as matters of concern by councillors on both local area committees.
The CLPG spokesman added: “While making this complaint our group wishes to stress that no criticism is being directed at the case officer….He has had to operate within a departmental framework and culture which we consider backward and which we believe is in part to blame for the problems described in this letter. Further, we believe the real explanation for many of the problems described here is that the case officer’s assessment of both proposals concluded that recommendations for refusal should come from the planning service. Planning chiefs took a different view and the case officer was left trying to make evidence pointing to recommendations for refusal, suddenly face the other way.”
CLPG has asked the planning service to recognise its complaint before the applications come before Fife Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday, March 20.
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