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Ex-deputy first minister’s turbine bid blocked

A former Scottish political leader has been defeated in his fifth attempt to win approval for a controversial windfarm in Aberdeenshire.

Councillors have upheld the decision to throw out Lord Nicol Stephen’s plans to erect two masts near Blackhills Farm at Cushnie.

Campaigners said they hoped the verdict would convince the one-time deputy first minister to finally drop the proposals for the site.

In September it was reported that Lord Stephen’s firm, Renewable Energy Ventures (REV), had asked for a review of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to reject his application for planning permission.

Local authority officials had already had to send planning applications for the Cushnie scheme back to REV on two occasions because of “factual inaccuracies” in environmental statements.

A third application was blocked by the local authority in 2012, and a fourth bid to erect two 325ft masts was dismissed in May this year amid fears about the impact on the local area.

Members of the planning authority’s local review body considered the issue again on Friday and upheld the rejection of the plans.

The councillors are understood to have noted the level of objection – 336 letters were lodged opposing the scheme – and said that the ruling in May had been in line with the council’s policies.

The Stop Turbines in Cushnie (Stic) group was established when the plans were first unveiled in 2011.

Chairwoman Linda van Weereld welcomed the body’s decision.

“Hopefully Lord Stephen and the landowner will now accept that there is no likelihood of building their industrial-sized monstrosities in the Cushnie countryside,” she said.

“A total of 338 letters of representation were submitted to the council’s planning department; only two were in support.

“Approximately 80 wrote again in direct response to the appeal. There was significant public interest, for a variety of reasons, in an endeavour to ensure that turbines were not erected on the land at Blackhills Farm.”

She added: “Naturally, Stop Turbines in Cushnie welcome the decision by both the planning department and the local review body.

“For all those that took the time to submit their objections to both the planning authority and the local review body, they undoubtedly had a significant impact in preserving the landscape and views for those that enjoy the amenities of this area.

“If Lord Nicol Stephen and the landowner have any consideration whatsoever for those that objected, Stic would welcome their assurances that they will make no further applications for this area.”

The Press and Journal, Energy Voice’s sister publication, revealed in September that Lord Stephen had been investigated by the House of Lords conduct committee over his official register of green energy interests.

Standards Commissioner Paul Kernaghann found that the former Liberal Democrat MSP for Aberdeen South had breached the code by failing to register all of his directorships of renewables firms.

The inquiry dismissed two of three complaints by north-east resident Jeff van Weereld, and said the breach was “minor” and due to “mistaken interpretation” of the rules.

Lord Stephen has since apologised and updated his register of interest.

The peer did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Green Cat Renewables, which acted as the agent for the planning application, also did not respond.