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Could a new council policy defeat wind farm bids?  

Credit:  Bryan Copland | East Lothian Courier | Published 4 Jul 2013 | www.eastlothiancourier.com ~~

A community leader has accused renewables companies of treating East Lothian residents as “second-class citizens” after they unveiled plans to add about 40 more wind turbines to the Lammermuir Hills.

But East Lothian Council’s environment spokesman believes the plans could be scuppered by new council guidance on large-scale wind farms.

A proposed project to install up to 30 new turbines at the existing Aikengall site, near Oldhamstocks – labelled as ‘Aikengall IIa’ – has been lodged with the Scottish Government by Community Windpower Ltd.

The company, which held public exhibitions on the proposal last month, says the new application is an extension of the existing Aikengall I and II Community Wind Farms.

Meanwhile, Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd is bidding to build 11 100/125-metre turbines on the East Lammermuir Plateau, near its existing Crystal Rig I and II wind farms, dubbed ‘Crystal Rig III’.

It comes just four months after Community Windpower Ltd was granted planning permission for Aikengall II – a development of 19 145-metre turbines to the south of 16 that already operate at Aikengall I.

Crystal Rig already has 40 turbines operating in East Lothian and more in the Scottish Borders.

But new draft guidance being proposed by East Lothian Council, called ‘Guidance On Windfarms Over 12 MW’, which would see any new wind farm plans for the county come under increased scrutiny, is expected to go before a full council vote in September.

If the new guidance – a requirement of the Scottish Government – is approved, applications for new large clusters of turbines in East Lothian would be unlikely to be accepted, though single turbines or small groups of turbines under 12MW in capacity would still be considered.

Chris Bruce, chair of East Lammermuir Community Council, said in March he feared that Oldhamstocks could become “completely ringed” by wind turbines after the Scottish Government had approved Aikengall II.

This week, he told the Courier: “My initial reaction to the new plans for Aikengall IIa was one of dismay. We had a hard-fought battle with the company over Aikengall II and for this to come hard on the heels of that is upsetting.

“We feel Community Windpower are scaremongering with this new project for up to 30 new turbines in our area, as they might just settle for around 20 when it comes to the crunch. It’s a tactic used in politics a lot these days.

“Our views had been taken into account following the public consultations and exhibitions throughout the community last month, but ultimately we have been left disappointed.

“To their credit, [Community Windpower] did hand-deliver information leaflets to everyone in the area and sent two representatives to talk to us, but they were not men from the top and couldn’t really allay our fears.

“This decision has left us feeling like second-class citizens and we are not really being valued.”

Councillor Michael Veitch, whose Dunbar and East Linton ward includes East Lammermuir, said: “With the dust having only just settled on the recent decision to grant permission for 19 more turbines in this area – the Aikengall II/Wester Dod scheme – I’m sure that many of my constituents in and around Oldhamstocks will be utterly dismayed that up to 30 more turbines are now being considered.

“Furthermore, for the developer to refer to this proposal as ‘Aikengall IIa’ is arguably extremely misleading, in that it implies it is the first stage of the already authorised Aikengall II scheme, when in fact these are additional turbines.

“The Eastern Lammermuirs are paying an ever higher price for the Scottish Government’s ill-conceived renewables policy.”

But Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader, says “all parties will have their say” before any final decision is made.

“I have to say firstly I am quite surprised Michael Vietch has been so vocal on this proposed project, as any application should be judged solely on its own merits,” he told the Courier.

“I feel it is important for him as a councillor, and, more importantly, as a member of East Lothian Council’s planning committee, not to prejudge any future application this council might, or might not, receive.

“The local East Lammermuir community will be able to have their say, as will every other interested party, when, and if, the application comes to the council’s planning committee.”

However, Councillor Norman Hampshire, the council’s environment spokesman, believes the assumption would be against either development going ahead should the council adopt that new guidance.

“As the guidance stands, it basically says that there’s no more capacity anywhere in the East Lothian landscape for large wind farm-type developments,” he said.

“There’s been guidance for some time on wind farm development but there’s since been an environmental impact assessment with that guidance.

“Now that’s been done, it’s going to be adopted as the council’s policy and will be included within the new Local Development Plan. If approved by the council, that makes it much stronger guidance.

“A [Scottish Government] reporter can, if he wishes, say he doesn’t take a lot of weight of guidance. But if it then becomes part of the Local Development Plan, the reporter has to take that into consideration.”

Community Windpower refused to comment when contacted by the Courier, but its website states that the application is currently at the scoping stage.

The scoping report, which has been lodged with the Scottish Government, outlines the development proposals for the wind farm, the aspects of the environment that will be addressed in the environmental impact assessment and the methodologies proposed to undertake the assessments.

A Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd spokesman said: “An environmental statement has been prepared after carrying out an environmental impact assessment in accordance with the Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2000 as amended to develop a wind farm extension at Crystal Rig.

“The proposed wind farm (phase III) will comprise of up to 11 turbines and associated infrastructure adjacent to the existing Crystal Rig Wind Farm developments (phase I, Ia, II and IIa).

“An application has been submitted in May 2013 to the Scottish Government seeking consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989; it also seeks a direction under Section 57(2) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 as amended, that planning permission for the development be deemed to be granted.

“Public consultation prior to the application included the following main elements: meetings with community councils, including East Lammermuir and Garvald & Morham Community Councils, key stakeholder meetings, two public exhibitions and also newspaper advertisements.”

Source:  Bryan Copland | East Lothian Courier | Published 4 Jul 2013 | www.eastlothiancourier.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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