A decision by councillors to block an extension to an Ochil Hills wind farm has been overturned by the Scottish Government.
Six turbines, known as the ‘Rhodders Wind Farm’ development, will now be added to the west of the already 13-turbine Burnfoot Hill wind farm.
The move was granted following an appeal by developers Wind Prospect when Clackmannanshire Council’s Planning Committee refused the plans.
Planning convener Alastair Campbell said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.
He said, “I’ve always had the belief that local people have a commitment to decide local applications but I understand that there has always got to be an appeals process if we make the wrong decision. Although, it’s disappointing when the decision is taken away from local people and made by a government appointee who is working to a different agenda than the rest of us.”
The Tory councillor said it was the cumulative affect of wind farms across the Ochils that was the main issue.
He added, “We’ve got to the stage now that we are covering the country with quite a lot of wind farms. If they were off-shore I don’t think anyone would object to them.”
In June last year, councillors narrowly voted to refuse the application on the grounds that it contravened planning guidelines and the cumulative effect of further turbines would have was an “adverse and unacceptable intrusion” on the Ochils.
SNP councillor Les Sharp, backed by council leader Gary Womersley, voted in favour of the development, however it was quashed when, at 5 votes each, councillor Campbell used his casting vote as convener.
Despite this and several high profile objectors, including Friends of the Ochils and the Gleneagles Hotel – host of the 2014 Ryder Cup – the Scottish Ministers’ appeals reporter, Michael Cunliffe, approved the plans.
In his findings, Mr Cunliffe said that the scheme’s contribution to renewable energy needs outweighed any development contraventions.
He noted that while there would be a “significant cumulative effect” for recreational users of the hills it would be far less than a new free-standing wind farm.
On Gleneagles, he wrote, “There will be places within the Gleneagles estate where other wind farms such as Green Knowes are visible, and there is some risk that with further wind turbine development, the special landscape setting could become progressively eroded. Nevertheless, I do not consider that the impact of the Rhodders scheme itself would be significant, or that it would be sufficient to deter visitors or to degrade their experience.”
He concluded, “I consider that the proposal is in accordance with the development plans, when read as a whole and balancing the scheme’s benefits against its adverse effects.”
Last year Perth & Kinross Council approved a two-turbine extension to the Burnfoot Hill wind farm due to be erected by the summer.
Wind Prospect says the local community will be updated once a construction plan is in place for the Rhodders Wind Farm.
Sarah Dooley, Senior Development Manager, said, “We are confident that the Rhodders Wind Farm will, in addition to the operational Burnfoot Hill Wind Farm and its extension, play a positive role in benefiting the local community. These three schemes will continue to make a real difference to the area through the Burnfoot Hill Community Benefit Fund and the ongoing contributions to the Ochils Landscape Partnership. Combined they are expected to generate as much electricity as is used by all the homes in Clackmannanshire.”
Conservation group, Friends of the Ochils, fears the decision will see the hill range become a “wind farm landscape”.
Stuart Dean, group chair, said, “The pressure on the Ochils is unrelenting; in the last year alone the Friends of the Ochils have responded to at least fourteen planning applications for wind turbines in and around the hills and there is no end to the pressure to industrialise the hill range with pylons, quarries and turbines.
“The decision by Clackmannanshire Council to refuse the Rhodders application was made democratically by the Planning Committee and that decision should have been respected by all parties. We fear for the future of this beautiful and much-loved range of hills.”
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