An anti-windfarm campaign group claims planning chiefs are “on a collision course” with rural communities in Fife.
Clatto Landscape Protection Group (CLPG) claims officials are playing down or ignoring the visual impact large wind turbines can have on people who would live close to them.
The group is worried that if officials do not change tack, there will be many more large wind turbine applications too close to where people live.
CLPG chairman Greg Brown said: “Inevitably, those applications will be opposed by the people who live near them. That has already happened many times in Fife.
“The current approach is a recipe for ongoing conflict and it needn’t be like this.”
The group believes a track record is building of elected councillors turning down wind turbine planning applications because they judge the visual impact would be harmful – often against advice from the planning chiefs.
The group points to Fife planning chiefs recommending approval of two applications for a total of 10 very large turbines at Clatto Hill.
By a large majority, councillors turned them down.
Both developers appealed but a Scottish Government Reporter supported the councillors’ decisions and refused the appeals.
“The difference between the assessment made by councillors, the Scottish Government Reporter and the local community on the one hand and the planning chiefs on the other is quite simple,” added Mr Brown.
“The planning chiefs don’t want to recognise the overwhelming visual impact large turbines would have close to where people live.
“Everyone else accepts this common sense view.”
Fife Council is reviewing its wind energy guidance and seeking opinions from Fifers. People have until March 10 to submit their views.
CLPG highlight planning officials’ suggestion the council adopts a new report, commissioned by landscape consultants Ironside Farrar.
They say this now recognises the “limitations” on large wind turbines being built on prominent hills in Fife.
However, they have earmarked new areas on lower-lying land, which they claim are “areas with highest inherent capacity” for large wind turbines.
The group is worried those areas include “large swathes” of the Howe of Fife surrounding Ladybank and Auchtermuchty, an area north of Cupar and an area in the East Neuk.
The CLPG submission states to the plan consultation says: “Ironside Farrar gives a false impression of the suitability of some locations for wind farms.
“The reality is the level of rural population will be a major constraining factor and must be taken into account.”
The group has submitted detailed suggestions for a change to Fife Council’s wind energy guidance, showing how visual impact on local people can be assessed.
“We have tried to echo how the Scottish Government Reporter assessed the Clatto proposals,” said Stavros Michaelides, secretary of the group.
“We are also making the demand full information is collected about peoples’ homes close to proposals and a proper and thorough assessment of the visual impact on them be carried out.
“This has been sadly lacking in past planning assessments,” he added.
Jim Birrell, Fife Council’s senior manager (development and buildings) said: “Fife Council has received the full submission from the Clatto Landscape Protection Group and many other individuals and other organisations in response to its public consultation exercise.
“A full assessment of all the submissions will be made after the March 10 deadline before the council considers any changes to its wind energy guidance.
“In assessing applications for windfarms, currently the council pays particular attention to visual and landscape impacts and also the proximity of residential properties.”
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