Call for policy rethink

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Mearns Councillor George Carr has called for a fundamental rethink of the policies on siting wind farms in Aberdeenshire.

Speaking at Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee when considering policy aspects of the emerging Local Development Plan, Councillor Carr stated that the public are increasingly unhappy at their lack of meaningful input into whether an area is suitable for siting a windfarm.

“The policies to my mind are far too vague and far too subjective as to whether an area is for example, of ‘landscape significance’ or not.

“The siting of windfarms is however very separate from whether we support the concept of wind farms or not.”

Councillor Carr added: “As a Councillor I feel increasingly redundant in having any say over the siting of wind farms. Scottish Government has imposed ambitious targets for renewable energy generation and in my opinion has a responsibility to spell out to Councils how much energy generation Aberdeenshire should be contributing to the electicity grid. A positive recommendation from Council Planners is a very powerful endorsement, and many of the landscape considerations are far too subjective.

“If we were looking at an application for housing we would have a designated geographic area in our Local Development Plan which has already been consulted on with the public for their input and views, and we would know exactly where we stand. No such consultation has taken place on wind farms and we are working in the dark. I have suggested a similar concept for wind farms!

“Assessments of ‘valued views’ have also been done but in my opinion that can be a double edged sword because if a ‘valued view’ is not detailed in the Local Development Plan and a Scottish Government Reporter is assessing the merit of any wind farm site in a planning appeal, then it would likely carry more weight in favour of granting planning permission! Aberdeenshire is covered by ‘valued views’ and how do we collate and detail them all? It’s impossible but yet again is subjective!”

The views of the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee will be reported back to the Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee requesting that further guidance is urgently sought from Scottish Government on what level of wind power generation Aberdeenshire Council should be expected to provide.”

Windfarms are probably the most contentious issue facing the Mearns in recent years with a whole host of applications for turbines either with Aberdeenshire Council or pending.

At the recent meeting of Mearns Community Council, members expressed their concern at over-proliferation. Chairman David Nelson circulated a map showing the number of turbines that have either been built, been approved or are at the application stage within a 15km radius of Laurencekirk.

Mr Nelson said that in addition to the seven turbines already on the Garvock Hill at Tullo, the neighbouring N.R. Gammie Partnership were seeking five turbines at nearby at The Shiells, Lloyd Garvie is seeking three.

He said that would be 15 turbines all in the same locus, excluding the proposed extension to the Tullo scheme (understood to be seven turbines) and he asked how much one community is expected to absorb.

Alan Mowat commented that the local plan’s failure to detail where turbines should go had left the door wide open.