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Opponents claim sweet victory as Newburgh community windfarm plan is rejected

Creation of what would have been the first community-owned windfarm in the east of Scotland has been voted down by councillors.

Newburgh Community Trust wanted to erect three huge turbines in the Ochil Hills, south of the Tay Estuary.

The trust had claimed the 100-metre high structures would have generated an estimated £8.3 million for the community over their 25-year life span, but a Fife Council committee cast out the proposal, fearing it would set a precedent and signal ”open season” for windfarm developers.

The north-east Fife area committee refused planning permission for the development at Braeside of Lindores Farm, by 10 votes to four, on the grounds of its scale, visual impact and the potential for driver distraction.

The bid had polarised opinion in the community and caused bitter argument.

One particularly vocal opponent, Jock Ferguson, who moved from the town due to ill-feeling over the issue, said those who fought the plans had been vindicated.

He said: ”This is a victory for honesty, decency and for the good of Newburgh itself. Newburgh Community Trust members should apologise as individuals for their association with it and stand down. The organisation should be disbanded permanently.”

Newburgh Community Trust chairman Andrew Arbuckle, a retired councillor who previously chaired the committee, simply said he was ”disappointed” at the result.

He refused to say whether the trust would appeal the decision to the Scottish Governrment.

After Wednesday’s committee meeting, Howe of Fife and Tay Coast councillor Donald Lothian, whose ward includes Newburgh, said: ”There will be a significant measure of disappointment within the community at this outcome.”

Tay Bridgehead councillor Maggie Taylor had appealed to fellow committee members to support the project. At the meeting she said: ”This proposal will bring a number of benefits which are typical of a community energy enterprise and are sufficient to outweigh the alleged scenery loss.

”The only concern is the visual impact.”

Newburgh is a near neighbour to Perth and Kinross, whose local authority objected, and Mrs Taylor said: ”The hills of Perth and Kinross are covered with wind turbines and huge electricity pylons. Another three wind turbines are not going to make much difference.”

She was backed by fellow Tay Bridgehead councillor Tim Brett, who highlighted the support shown in representations made to the council, 65% of which were in favour compared to 25% against.

He said: ”A significant majority of people are supportive of this. This application meets virtually all the planning conditions, and that’s not often the case for wind turbines.

”The local people expressed their view very clearly in this instance and I think we should listen to them, trust them and allow this to go forward.”

However, it was St Andrews councillor Dorothea Morrison’s plea for the planning application to be rejected which won the day.

She said: ”I am sympathetic to the community but I think the impact that this might have on further applications means we really have to go for refusal.”

Planning officials had advised councillors that the planning application should be rejected due to significant visual impact on the surrounding landscape.

Significant public money has been spent on the project, including £250,000 from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund.