The winds of change are being detected when it comes to planning policy for turbines on the doorstep of the Cairngorms National Park, it is being claimed.
There have been frequent complaints by planning committee members in the past that a ring of steel is forming round the region’s boundary such is the proliferation of wind farms.
They have welcomed the recent refusal by Scottish Ministers of plans for 39 turbines at Glenshero by Laggan reaching 135 metres at tip height.
The proposal by SIMEC Wind One Ltd – owned by the under-fire GFG Alliance group – in the southern Monadhliath was turned down because of its visual impact.
At the same meeting, the committee agreed to object to plans on similar grounds by Fred. Olsen Renewables to develop a 17-turbine wind farm with blades up to 185m in height on Dava Moor.
The proposal for Lethen Wind Farm around 10 kilometres north west of Grantown has attracted strong opposition from local residents who have said its visual impact will destroy the setting of Lochindorb and its castle.
At the latest meeting, planning committee convener Gaynor Rodger drew attention to the Glenshero decision which she believes could now set a precedent for future wind farm decisions.
She said: “The Reporter explicitly took account of the effects on the national park including that on two separate geographical areas which – although relatively localised – resulted in impacts which compromised the overall integrity of the park.
“I wanted to flag up the Reporter’s reasonings for the recommendation which helps to establish principles and thresholds that will be helpful to draw attention to in later cases.
“This should reinforce the approach that the CNPA and NatureScot have been taking to wind farm proposals that have significant effects on the national park.”
Committee member Peter Argyle said: “This is seriously good news and I reflect back some years ago when we had a reporter’s decision on a wind farm in Aberdeenshire very close to the national park boundary.
“The Reporter said that the impact would only be on a very small part of the national park and therefore did not matter – in terms, he did not use those exact words.
“It is good to see in this case that the impact on one part of the park is seen as having an impact on the park as a whole.
“This is a significant change from where we were just a few years ago.”
Ms Rodger said that the park authority’s own planning officials had pointed out that this reasoning for the refusal of the proposed Glenshero development was ‘very different to before’.
The Glenshero wind farm could have combined with the existing Stronelairg (66 turbines), the consented Dell wind farm (14 tubines) and the proposed Cloiche project (36 turbines) to form one of the most extensive swathes of turbines in the UK.
Meanwhile, members unanimously agreed at the meeting to object to the proposed Lethen wind farm.
CNPA planning officer Nina Caudrey told members: “There is significant detail in the report on the NatureScot advice but it is basically related to the turbine lighting and the scale and location of the wind farm.”
Five of the turbines would require warning lights for low-flying aircraft.
Committee member Doug McAdam said: “The report makes quite a convincing case for the objection so I am very happy to support that.”
Gavin Miles, the CNPA’s head of planning, said after the meeting: “The planning committee were updated at the meeting on the Glenshero decision, particularly noting that the Scottish Government reporter had agreed with the opinions of the CNPA, NatureScot and the Highland Council in relation to the effects on the national park.
“It was good to see the joint position of the three agencies being recognised and given weight by the reporter explicitly.
“While there is no change to planning policy as such, it is encouraging to see that our objections and the impacts of wind turbines on the special landscape qualities of the national park are being given significant weight in the decision-making process.”
Fred. Olsen Renewables has said if their application is approved the company will bring forward a unique fuel poverty programme which will support local residents to reduce their energy bills.
The firm has also said the design has been revised a number of times in response to feedback gathered locally.
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