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Angus Council investigating claims of unapproved work at Ark Hill windfarm site

Council officials have mounted an enforcement inquiry at the site of a proposed large-scale Angus windfarm.

The investigation has been triggered at the Ark Hill site, south of Glamis, following complaints that work has started without authority on elements of what was the first windfarm approved for the county.

It centres around excavations at a borrow pit near Glen Ogilvie, with objectors claiming that the vicinity is home to rare peregrine falcons and ground nesting birds.

Concerns have also been raised with the authority that possible sites of archaeological interest and private water supplies in the area may be affected.

The eight-turbine Ark Hill scheme was originally submitted by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) but is now being carried forward by a consortium including Biggar-based Greencat Renewables and Strathmore Estates, on whose land the proposal sits.

Re-emergence of the scheme became mired in fresh controversy after a legal challenge was mounted by local farmers John and Jane Brewster, who led a long-standing local campaign against the original plan.

They claimed the 2006 planning permission was time expired and should be declared void.

In response, the authority said it believed the relevant date of approval to be February 2009, when formal planning permission was issued following conclusion of a section 75 legal agreement.

A recent sheriff court ruling was made in favour of the applicants and the council, effectively meaning that the permission for the windfarm still stands and clearing the way for the development to progress.

But the case remains to be settled on the issue of expenses and last night the Brewsters said that in light of that unresolved matter they did not wish to make any comment at this stage.

It has now emerged that planning officers are investigating an alleged breach of condition following a complaint over the site works.

It has been claimed that access road surfaces and adjacent verges will not be suitable for the construction traffic associated with the scheme and the excavations from the stated borrow pit will not be sufficient to create the site road, requiring further material to be brought into the area.

A spokesman for Angus Council confirmed officers are pursuing the matter and had been in talks with the applicants.

”Concerns raised with the council regarding compliance with the planning consent are being discussed with the developers. They have reaffirmed their intention to comply with all of the planning conditions. ”The council continues to monitor the situation.”

No-one connected with the Ark Hill development was available for comment at the Greencat head office in South Lanarkshire.

Earlier this year Newtyle and Eassie Community Council also wrote to the council highlighting concerns about a perceived lack of statutory consultation over the Ark Hill plan.

The community council said at the time: ”Even if this were regarded as some continuation of the application made originally by RES it would appear that there are sufficient material differences for further consultation to be desirable and required.”

The community council highlighted changes to turbine specification as a concern, suggesting there was now also increased evidence of the effects of turbine noise on close neighbours.

The body also called on the council to look at the intervisibility issue as increasing numbers of windfarm applications arrive with the authority.

”In addition, the previous proposal clearly identified the need for modifications to the Glen Ogilvie road which, being adopted, would require separate planning and road construction consents,” the community council added.

The community council was informed by Angus Council that they had not been consulted since the authority did not consider the matter a re-application, a view now backed by the sheriff court ruling.