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Call for tighter controls on wind turbines


By Graham Crawford

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A DEVERON Valley group has challenged Aberdeenshire Council’s planners to put stricter controls on the proliferation of wind turbines in the area.

The Marnoch and Deveron Valley Protection Group (MDVPG) has written to Robert Gray, head of planning policy, seeking an assurance that the local authority will fully protect areas like the valley which have been designated by the council as Areas of Landscape Significance (ALS).

There are more than 300 commercial wind turbines in Aberdeenshire of 50 metres or more in height, and a rapidly growing number of domestic and agricultural turbines of less than 50 metres at various stages of planning in Aberdeenshire.

Last year, a bid to erect three large turbines overlooking Marnoch Old Church and its ancient cemetery was dropped following a storm of protest.

An application was subsequenly lodged for a single 275-feet-high structure at the same location.

That has still to go through the planning process, and MDVPG wrote to Mr Gray last week, stating: "This valley is an exceptional stretch of country designated by the Aberdeenshire Council as an Area of Landscape Significance (ALS), but can we be confident that the council will uphold this status?

PIECEMEAL

"All indications are that developments are being driven piecemeal through the planning process, with disastrous consequences for the countryside. Can it not be made clear to planning officers, councillors and developers that as a result of the Aberdeenshire Council’s own designation, turbines should not be considered in the Deveron Valley ALS, or any other ALS for that matter?

"This is an area ‘protected from damaging developments’. But is that really the case? For example, it is hardly within the spirit of the guidelines to grant permission for three 100-metre turbines at Newton of Fortrie, 150m from the ALS boundary and in the face of the local planning department’s recommended refusal.

"We are also worried about the impact these wind turbines have on the local economy.

"Many of us have business interests connected with the River Deveron and tourism – for example letting fishing and holiday cottages. Next week sees the opening of the Deveron Fishing Festival, encouraging people to explore ‘The Hidden Gem’ of the Deveron Valley. All these activities are founded on the scenic integrity of the valley and the peace, quiet and charm the Deveron has to offer.

"We fully understand the balance the council must strike between national renewable requirements and planning issues arising from landscape and tourism concerns. But we must ask, in the light of continual attempts by developers and individuals to get unsuitable applications through the planning process: where does the council believe its responsibilities lie?

"Is it with developers, who stand to make disproportionate amounts of money from ROC turbine subsidies under the guise of Government renewable energy targets?

INDISCRIMINATE

"Or is it with the majority that derives simple pleasure from exceptional surroundings on a daily basis and resents indiscriminate development that will see Aberdeenshire, at the present rate, coalesce into one huge wind farm?

"It is incidentally indicative of the situation that several councillors have recently been reported in the press asking for stronger guidelines on how to tackle the whole issue of turbines development. They, like many others, are clearly overwhelmed by pressure of demand and lack of central or local guidance in an area of planning such as the ALS, which should be perfectly straightforward.

"We would like an assurance from the council that it will address these concerns as a matter of urgency and make clear that an ALS is an ALS, and not simply a minor impediment to turbine development. Otherwise, what is the point of costly planning consultations and lengthy debates if, in the end, it is all to be ignored?"

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman told ‘The Banffshire Journal’: "We will consider the contents of the letter."

* What is your view on the number of wind turbines, and applications for them, springing up in Banffshire? Write to: Letters, ‘The Banffshire Journal’, 22 Old Market Place, Banff AB45 1GE, or e-mail: editor@banffshire-journal.co.uk



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