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Government’s decision to overturn refusal of 326ft north-east turbine “an affront to democracy”

A farmer has won his battle to build a wind turbine – despite objectors attempting to derail the scheme with an aerial stunt.

James Beattie applied to build the 326ft mast on his land at Cornhill earlier this year, and said it could provide thousands of pounds to local groups.

But the scheme was thrown out by the Banff and Buchan area committee in June.

Their decision was made after visiting the site, where they were met by objectors who flew a bright red blimp 326ft to illustrate how the proposed mast would tower over the landscape.

The farmer appealed to the Scottish Government, which has now overturned the refusal.

Last night, the decision was branded “an affront to democracy” by opponents, but Mr Beattie claimed the turbine would have minimal impact on his direct neighbours.

He said he felt like it was the first time the application had been “looked at against Scottish planning policy,” adding: “This is what we’ve been looking for.

“The people against this do not represent the community of Cornhill. I do not know who they are representing, but none of my direct neighbours will be affected by it.

“It’s been really hard – because the loud minority seemed to be getting the column inches.”

Mr Beattie previously admitted he had been “aggrieved” by the blimp, and insisted if he thought the scheme was “messing up and upsetting local neighbours”, he would not be pursuing it.

Scottish Government reporter Trevor Croft visited the land before approving the plans.

In his decision, he said: “There is no doubt that wind turbines divide opinion but I have reached my decision based on planning policy and the development plan.

“I have found no material considerations that justify refusing a proposal that I find complies with the development plan.”

But local councillor Michael Roy was furious at the decision last night, and branded it an “affront to democracy”.

“This application goes against all planning guidelines and was rejected by local councillors,” he said.

“But here we are, where the Scottish Government has overturned that decision. It really does say very little for the democracy of Scotland.

“It’s not just that I disagree with this windmill, but the fact is we’ve gone through a democratic process for nothing.”

About 40 people objected to the scheme, with one even branding the application a “threat” to residents.

Caroline Hobbs said: “We think it’s too big and in the wrong place,” she said.

“It’s very distressing for us who are going to live next to it.”

Last night, Rebecca Campbell-Wilson, who owns Castle of Parks near where the turbine will be erected, said she did know how the turbine had been approved.

She added: “We’re working, through the community council, to see if there’s any action being taken at this point.”

She declined to comment further.

The objectors had previously hired a solicitor to represent them at a council meeting, who claimed the turbine would have a “significant impact” on the character of the area.

When eventually built, the turbine is expected to provide thousands of pounds to local good causes during its 20-year lifespan.

Mr Beattie has estimated that this could be as much as £23,000.