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Rowley worried over Little Raith appplication going ahead via ‘back door’

MSP for the Cowdenbeath constituency, Alex Rowley, has this week written to the Minister for Communities, Social Justice and Pensioners Rights, asking for a meeting to discuss the Little Raith Wind Farm extension planning application which he claims is ‘bypassing’ the democratic processes.

The MSP has also said that he has contacted the Director of Public Health for Fife requesting a meeting to discuss the possible health impacts from the Little Raith site on residents in Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly.

Speaking to the Times Mr Rowley said, “It is clear that council officials were rigorous, robust and conscientious in dealing with this application and tried time and again to agree a timeline with the applicant that would allow for the proper consideration and democratic process to be followed.

“I suspect, however, that this company decided the best chance they had of getting this application through was to go for non determination and hope the Scottish Government would pass it. I want to discuss this matter with the minster responsible for planning, Mr Alex Neil, as it would be a travesty against democracy if this was allowed to happen”.

The Times understands that the process followed by Fife Council, was as follows; Fife Council had pre-application discussions with the applicant and stated that they felt they could not support the application. (26.3.2014). The pre-application also requested a processing agreement be drawn up given the complex nature of any application should it be submitted. The applicant did not agree to this.

The applicant proceeded to submit the application (18.07.2014) and the 4 month target date was 18.11.2014. Fife Council followed due process and carried out the planning assessment. Following comments from Scottish Natural Heritage and Environmental Protection Services, stating the application could not be supported the applicant submitted additional information on 29.10.2014. Again it was stated that this information did not change the recommendation of refusal. At the request of the applicant a further meeting was held with the applicant on 25th November.

It was again reiterated that the application could not be supported and the Case Officer set out a timeline for presenting to the 2 Planning Committees (central and west) immediately following the Christmas holiday period. Again a processing agreement was mooted to the applicant and not accepted. The Case Officer followed due diligence by allowing the additional information and final meeting in November. A time extension had not formally been agreed by the applicant so they then exercised their right of appeal for non-determination on 24.12.2014. The Director for Planning and Environmental Appeals, not the applicant, informed Fife Council of this.

The appeal is currently underway and the reporter has all the information to hand and will be shortly carrying out a site visit.

The appeal is to be carried out via written submission and not through a hearing.

Mr Rowley said, “It is clear from the timeline that this application would not have been supported and we cannot have a system where companies on that basis try to get the approval through the back door.

“I am also concerned that these new turbines would be even closer to houses and I am raising health issues including constituents now suffering from headaches caused by flicker and others with sickness and other symptoms associated with living too close to wind farms.

“I am seeking a meeting with the Director of Public Health as I am pushing for a full investigation into the health impacts on people living close to this wind farm”.

Kennedy Renewables, who submiited the plan for a five turbine extension at the operation, have been trying to progress the application but have been waiting some months.

If the application is successful the 4Winds Trust community fund would increase signicantly when the new turbines came into operation.