May 19, 2014

Crystal Rig wind turbine ‘secrecy’ comes under fire

The Berwickshire News | 19 May 2014 |

A move to allow council managers to privately decide on plans for seven more wind turbines near Dunbar has been branded “wholly inappropriate”.

A report was due to be debated by councillors at a meeting of East Lothian Council’s cabinet in Haddington but was withdrawn from the agenda.

The council has been consulted by the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit on an application by Fred Olsen Renewables Limited for an extension to Crystal Rig windfarm in the Lammermuir Hills. In the report, members were being asked to approve delegating officers to write to Scottish Ministers outlining the council’s formal response and object to the plan because of “adverse landscape and visual impacts.”

They were also asked to agree that the council would drop its objection subject to the removal of one turbine and a reduction in height of three other turbines.

However, Councillor David Berry highlighted concerns about “public scrutiny”.

He said: “A point of order – I am somewhat upset that item five has been withdrawn. It is my understanding that it is to be decided in private by the senior management team.”

Councillor Willie Innes, Labour, council leader, replied: “I understand that the Standing Orders approved by the council dictate the route that this particular report has had to go. Members will, of course, have the opportunity at the council to pick up on it.”

Chief executive Angela Leitch added: “The new Standing Orders have delegated this to the head of service for approval so there is no role for the cabinet in this. At council there will an chance in June for members to have a say in the consultation process.”

Councillor Berry said: “But it will be a done deal by then. My concern is that something as sensitive as wind farms and the large wind farms we have on the Lammermuirs are a matter of some dispute in the county. While I personally support them, I recognise the large constituency of people who do not.”

Councillor Innes added: “Every other member shares your concern and would like to express a public opinion. It’s not on the agenda and we can’t discuss it. The advice I have been given at the time legally and through the administration is that it was not appropriate for that item to come before the cabinet.

A spokesman for East Lothian Council later said that senior officers would formulate a report which would go on the agenda at a forthcoming full meeting of the council, and councillors would agreed to it or not.

The application for the Crystal Rig extension was originally 11 turbines but this has been reduced to seven. The council’s landscape officer does not support the revised scheme as the proposal would result in the spread of wind turbines along the Lammermuir skyline into areas of hillside where there are no turbines at present.

It was felt that the wind farm extension would have a “detrimental visual impact” on the landscape of the Dunbar Conservation Area and would “completely detract” from the importance of Dunbar Parish Church as a focal point in key views from Dunbar harbour.

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