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Banffshire windfarm plan sparks major row

A businessman whose plans for a travellers camp in the countryside left his neighbours furious has now tabled proposals for a major windfarm.

Bob Ritchie believes his four-turbine development south of Banff will bring a much-needed economic boost to the local area.

But the scheme is facing mounting opposition from local residents and scores of them are already urging members of Aberdeenshire Council to reject it.

Mr Ritchie had previously stunned locals at Linganbo, near King Edward, when he unveiled proposals for a dedicated halting site for gypsy-travellers.

He tabled his plan after the local authority stopped him from building his dream retirement home at the location – a decision he blamed on objections by residents.

In June last year, Mr Ritchie withdrew his proposal for a travellers camp after about 40 complaints from people living nearby.

A later bid to turn the site into a holiday park was rejected.

The 58-year-old farmer now wants to erect four turbines on land between King Edward and Longmanhill.

He has submitted planning applications for a 150ft mast at Linganbo and three 250ft structures at Cairnandrew, near his home.

Council planners have received more than 150 letters and e-mails calling for the proposals to be blocked.

But they have also received about 40 messages from supporters, who believe the project could boost the area, safeguard Mr Ritchie’s existing business and help meet Scottish Government renewable targets.

Opponents argue that the area is already “saturated” with turbines and that his development would have a further overbearing impact on nearby homes as well as the wider surrounding area.

One of the objectors, windfarm campaigner Jim Bayne, of Banff, said the masts would dominate the landscape.

He said: “There would appear to be about 60 turbines approved within a five-kilometre (3.1-mile) radius of the proposed site, with over 100 within a 10 kilometre (6.3-mile) radius.

“This area is now saturated with wind turbines and the cumulative effect is unacceptable.”

Fiona Mackinnon, who runs the Balhagan Equestrian Stables at nearby Bruntyards, has also objected.

She said the project could stop tourists visiting the area.

Mr Ritchie has insisted the development would be an asset to the area, with the potential to generate about £750,000 for the community over its 25-year lifespan.

He said he was getting ready to retire from farming and thought the windfarm would be a way of giving something back to the area.

“Once these turbines are up and running, they would make around £30,000 each year,” he said.

“This would be divided between King Edward School, the village hall and the church.”

The mast applications have already won clearance from the Ministry of Defence and air traffic controllers at Dyce.

The scheme is likely to be discussed by members of the council’s Banff and Buchan area committee in the coming weeks.

A previous application by Mr Ritchie to instal two turbines at the Linganbo site was rejected in March last year.