RAF chiefs have launched a legal battle to block a wind farm they fear could put pilots’ lives at risk at a Scottish airbase.
Papers lodged with the Scottish Government show military top brass are worried that turbines are jeopardising the safety of jets returning to the base at Lossiemouth, Morayshire.
The Ministry of Defence believes that plans for four new 360ft turbines at Bodinfinnoch, Keith, will have a significant impact on the detection of aircraft on radar systems.
Flight chiefs claim that the primary radar system has already been affected by the high number of other wind farms in the area.
They say the new development will cause “unacceptable” further degradation to the system, as the base awaits the imminent arrival of Typhoon fast jets.
Turbines show up on radar and are difficult to distinguish from small aircraft, so 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 further developments.
MoD chiefs have already successfully fought off dozens of wind turbine projects in the north-east. They claim an abundance of the masts is compromising vital radar equipment at RAF Buchan. An objection from the MoD could see turbine projects in Aberdeenshire shelved, as councillors are unlikely to support a proposal classed as a national security risk.
In papers Squadron Leader Michelle Betts told the Government the airspace to the south-east of RAF Lossiemouth is “vitally important” to UK defences. She warned more turbines would affect air traffic controllers’ ability to provide a route to base for aircraft which could be low on fuel, and said the clutter could result in genuine aircraft not being detected.
The MoD says Bodinfinnoch would cause “unacceptable further degradation” to the integrity of its radar readings south of the base. It adds that the imminent arrival of Typhoons will “add to intensity and complexity of air operations round Lossiemouth”.
The company behind the plans, Wind Ventures, maintains its project would be safe, and the MoD has failed to prove there would be interference. In the planning application they said: “It is submitted that the construction and operation of four turbines would not give rise to any safety or operational concerns in relation to radar services at RAF Lossiemouth.
“It is clear that the proposed wind farm would give rise to real benefits, in terms of its contribution towards national and international targets for the promotion of renewable generation.”
Neal MacPherson, Moray Council planning officer, has backed the MoD and also urged the Government to reject the plan. A decision will be made in October.
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