Ministers have approved a controversial wind farm overlooking the “home of golf”, while a similar scheme above the resort that will host the Ryder Cup has been rejected.
The contrasting decisions mean that turbines taller than Big Ben will be visible from the renowned Old Course at St Andrews, but not from Gleneagles.
St Andrews University has won approval for six 328ft turbines on farmland in Fife, three miles south-east of the famous British Open venue, which will host the tournament again in 2015.
They will be visible from several points on the course, but according to the Scottish Government reporter who backed the project, golfers and spectators should be concentrating on the game and sea views, not the turbines.
The St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the town’s seven public courses, including the Old Course, did not object to the wind farm at any stage and according to a source is relaxed about the decision.
However, Linda Holt, of the Scotland Against Spin campaign group, said many residents of Fife would be “devastated” by an undemocratic decision that would “wreck the landscape and damage the tourist trade in the East Neuk”.
She added: “This wind farm will become a sorry symbol of the arrogant contempt with which university managers regard St Andrews and Fife.”
Meanwhile, a similar scheme criticised by Gleneagles Hotel, where the Ryder Cup will be hosted next September, has been rejected because of its visual impact on the Perthshire landscape.
A different reporter decided in that case that while the turbines would not be visible from the PGA Centenary Course on which the tournament will be played, they would have a negative impact on the area.
Fife Council refused planning consent to the university scheme – which was also opposed by community councils, residents’ groups and golfing businesses, including the Old Course Hotel – a year ago, prompting the university to appeal to ministers.
Both the local authority and Scottish Natural Heritage, the government environment agency, warned of the visual impact on the historic skyline of St Andrews and views from the links and the West Sands.
However, the planning reporter Alistair Edwards said: “I consider that players’ and observers’ attention would be primarily on the game, the golf course itself, the expansive sea views and buildings and prominent landmarks in St Andrews.”
It is thought that the university will be the first in the UK to have its own wind farm.
The turbines at Kenly Farm, near Boarhills and Kingsbarns, are expected to produce 12.3MW of electricity, which will be used to power university buildings.
The Kenly Landscape Protection Group, which has spent four years campaigning against the proposal, said it was baffled by the decision.
John Goodwin, chairman of the group, added: “Some 97 homes lie within 2km of the wind farm, which will inflict an overbearing visual impact, noise and shadow flicker on many of them.
“People’s enjoyment of their homes will be diminished and house prices will inevitably fall. Similarly, holiday homes and other rental accommodation will find it harder to find tenants.”
A spokesman for St Andrews University said: “We await the full detail of the reporter’s decision, but are delighted that our appeal has been upheld and that this important project can finally go ahead.
“Kenly has always been central to our efforts to generate our own clean, green power, reduce our exposure to crippling external energy price-rises and protect local jobs in Fife.
“We recognise that our plans for Kenly prompted passionate opposition from some people, but also very significant levels of support from within the local community.”
Meanwhile, a proposed development of seven turbines, at Frandy in the Ochil Hills overlooking Gleneagles, was refused after the five-star hotel said they could damage the success of the Ryder Cup and blight the natural beauty of the region.
The planning reporter Malcolm Mahony said that while the turbines would not be visible from the Ryder Cup course, they did not accord with Scottish Natural Heritage guidance on siting and design.
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