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Massive turbine project near Sanquhar gets boot over wildlife worries

Upper Nithsdale has missed out on a £6 million windfarm cash boost amid fears over rare birds.

Many residents in the area backed Community Windpower’s proposed Spango development.

Its plans for 14 turbines would have generated £6.125 million for Upper Nithsdale’s depressed economy over 25 years.

But the proposal was this week rejected by planning councillors because of the impact it would have on the environment and an internationally important wildlife site.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds objected to the revised proposal for part of the Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands Special Protection Area.

An RSPB spokesman said: “The windfarm will have a significant effect on the habitats of hen harrier, peregrine, merlin, short-eared owl and golden plover.”

And a council architect pointed out that it would have “significant adverse landscape, visual and cumulative effects.”

There were individual letters of support from 48 Upper Nithsdale residents. And both Sanquhar and Kirkconnel and Kelloholm community councils were also in favour.

But councillors went with the recommendation to reject the revised bid which had been scaled down from the original 24-turbine scheme.

Provost Ted Thompson said: “This is a wrong application and it’s in the wrong place and I’m happy to refuse it.”

His motion was supported by the committee with one councillor, Alistair Witts, recording his dissent.

Mr Witts told colleagues he was “not convinced” the application should be rejected.

However, officials advised members that proposed community benefits were not material planning matters.

Afterwards, Kelloholm councillor John Syme, who is not on the planning committee, expressed disappointment at the decision.

He said: “The days are gone when windfarm money would’ve been used for hanging baskets, it would have made a real difference. We can’t rely on the opencast mines forever, Brown Brothers (meat factory) is a saving grace but the windfarms offer opportunities for deprived communities.”

Meanwhile, the committee approved an application by Dumfries Wind Energy Limited to erect a wind speed measuring mast on the Keir Hills south west of Thornhill.