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RAF warns turbines threaten pilots’ lives

RAF chiefs fear pilots’ lives are being put at risk by the number of windfarms being built in the Moray area.

Papers lodged with the Scottish Government show military top brass are worried that turbines are jeopardising the safety of fast jets returning to the key Lossiemouth base at speeds of up to 500mph.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is fighting to block plans for four huge new wind turbines south of the base, and officials say existing windfarms in the area are already causing a “significant operational issue”.

They say more masts would cause “unacceptable interference” – and that the situation is getting out of hand.

Under the new plans, four 360ft turbines would be erected at Bodinfinnoch Farm, Keith.

The proposal was rejected by Moray Council earlier this year, but the Reading-based developer has appealed to Scottish ministers, insisting the structures would be safe.

Turbines show up on radar and are difficult to distinguish from small aircraft. As a result, RAF planes steer six miles clear of them.

But with Typhoon jets due to move to Lossiemouth next summer, and the number of turbines nearby growing, air force bosses say they are struggling to cope with any further developments.

MoD chiefs have already successfully fought off dozens of wind turbine projects in the north-east.

They claim that an abundance of green-energy masts is compromising vital radar equipment at RAF Buchan.

An objection from the MoD is now seen as a kiss of death to turbine developments in Aberdeenshire, given that councillors are very unlikely to support any proposal which has been classed as a risk to national security.

Several schemes have already been rejected on the basis of the MoD’s opposition, while other plans have been withdrawn after objections from the military.

Squadron Leader Michelle Betts has told the government that the airspace to the south-east of RAF Lossiemouth is “vitally important” to UK defences.

She said more turbines would affect the ability of air traffic controllers to provide a safe route to base for aircraft which could be low on fuel. She also said the clutter could result in genuine aircraft not being properly detected, and that addressing the impact of wind turbines on air traffic control radar was a “major concern”.

In a further submission, the MoD says the Bodinfinnoch development would cause “unacceptable further degradation” to the integrity of its radar readings south of the base.

It adds that the imminent arrival of Typhoon jets will “add further to the intensity and complexity of air operations around Lossiemouth”.

However, the company behind the plans, Wind Ventures, maintains that its project would be safe, and that the MoD has failed to prove that there would be interference.

“It is submitted that the construction and operation of four turbines would not give rise to any safety or operational concerns in relation to the provision of radar services at RAF Lossiemouth,” it says in its own submission to the government. “In addition, it is clear that the proposed windfarm would give rise to real benefits, in terms of its contribution towards national and international targets for the promotion of renewable generation and the UK’s and Scotland’s obligations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

But Neal MacPherson, Moray Council’s principal planning officer, has backed the MoDand urged the government to reject the plan. “The further desensitisation of the RAF Lossiemouth radar due to clutter that this development would introduce does outweigh the benefits the four turbines would realise in terms of national targets for renewable power generation,” he said.

“The issues of air safety and defence capability are matters that should take precedence in this particular case. Moray Council respectfully asks that the planning refusal be upheld and the appeal dismissed.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said last night it could not comment on the appeal until a decision has been made. It is expected to announce its decision in October.