Construction of what would be the first community-owned windfarm in the east of Scotland has been dealt a significant blow after being recommended for refusal.
Fife Council planning officers say the plans for three 100-metre turbines on a hill at Braeside of Lindores Farm, near Newburgh, would have an adverse impact on the sensitive local landscape – and could impact detrimentally on tourism.
There has already been considerable public debate – including a heated online backlash – about the proposals.
The applicant, Newburgh Community Trust, claims the scheme is well supported locally and will eventually generate £1 million a year for the town.
However, in a report to Fife Council’s North East Fife area committee, which meets in Cupar on Wednesday, council planning official Robert Stirling is recommending that councillors turn down the application.
He states: ”It has been demonstrated that this development would comply with the development plan and other national and council guidance with regards to the majority of planning issues such as residential amenity, environmental, cultural heritage, road safety, access, and infrastructural requirements.
”However, this must be balanced against the significant visual impact of the development on the immediately surrounding landscape and the number of people in close proximity that would experience that impact. It would not be acceptable in terms of meeting the landscape and visual impact requirements.
”The proposal would be located in an elevated hill-top position within an area of strong rural character with few man-made structures present, would be conspicuous on and visible above the skyline and adjacent wooded areas, would be visible from a considerable number of vantage points within the town and from a main tourist route and unscreened locations over a wide geographical area.
”As such, the proposal would have a significant adverse impact on the sensitive local landscape and overall visual amenity of the area and the Area of Great Landscape Value in which it is located.
”The three-mast development would also be visible from locally important tourist and recreational areas including a significant stretch of the Tay estuary itself.”
Mr Stirling said in his report there had been over 500 representations regarding this application including letters from local community councils, local pressure groups, Perth and Kinross Council, and groups from across the River Tay.
Of the large number of representations received there were a large number in support of the proposal and a few representations appear to be an exchange of views between parties about matters which are ”not focused on the planning issues of the case”.
Many of the objectors support the principle of wind power but not at the location proposed.
Approximately 65% of the representations are in favour and 25% object to the proposal, while others appear undecided.
The main letters of objection related to it being contrary to local and national policy guidance, scale and height of the turbines, impact on landscape and environment, proximity to residences, impact on tourism, shadow flicker, noise and impact on property prices.
Scottish Natural Heritage, for example, had objected, warning that the application would appear to ”topple over” the skyline.
The letters of support cite support for the principle of renewable energy and the essential nature of renewable energy.
Newburgh Community Trust has expressed hope to begin construction this year. It is estimated the turbines will generate £250,000 a year for the first 15 years to be spent in the community, and £1 million a year once costs are covered.
They would also be capable of powering 4,000 homes and save almost 7,800 tons of carbon dioxide a year.
Trustee John Ferrans stated recently: ”I can’t see any reason why this application wouldn’t go through.”
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