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Windfarm planning rejection prompts threat from hill farmer

A north-east hill farmer has threatened to open up her land to travellers after plans for a controversial windfarm were rejected for a fifth time.

Councillors upheld a decision to block proposals for two industrial-sized turbines put forward by former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Lord Nicol Stephen.

It was the fifth time that a bid by Lord Stephen to use Blackhills Farm, near Cushnie, in Aberdeenshire, for renewable energy had been thwarted.

The latest application involved two 325ft turbines.

Lord Stephen’s firm, Renewable Energy Ventures (REV), had asked Aberdeenshire Council to reconsider an earlier decision to deny planning permission.

However, members of the planning authority’s local review body upheld the rejection of the plans last month after noting that 336 letters of objection to the proposed scheme had been received.

A local pressure group, Stop Turbines in Cushnie (Stic), has also been fighting against the project since the plans were first unveiled in 2011.

Now the owner of Blackhills Farm says she has had enough of the resistance – and has alternative plans for the site.

Margaret Christie, who farms 140 acres with her husband Ian, said Stic had not only blocked the turbine plan but also held up her plans to build a new house.

“We have suffered so much, waiting to get our home up, we are going to open the site to travellers,” she said.

“It will save these campaigners a lot of money because they can call it Stic – Stop Travellers in Cushnie – so they wont have to do any new art work.

“The government said a few years ago it wanted hill farmers, which we are, to diversify into renewable energy,” she added.

“It is our ground. If the government suggests something we should be allowed to do it.”

Stic chairwoman Linda van Weereld said: “If the Christies open their land to travellers that would be a matter for the planning department of Aberdeenshire Council to deal with.”

Local authority officials previously sent two planning applications for the Cushnie scheme back to REV 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 last year amid fears about the impact on the local area.