Luxury hotel raises a storm over Kenly windfarm plans

TS News 04/12/09  Picture by Dan Phillips. Owner of the Old Course Hotel St Andrews, Herb Kohler, outside his latest purchase, the old St Andrews University student residence, Hamilton Hall on The Scores.
TS News 04/12/09 Picture by Dan Phillips. Owner of the Old Course Hotel St Andrews, Herb Kohler, outside his latest purchase, the old St Andrews University student residence, Hamilton Hall on The Scores.

The owners of the luxury Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa in St Andrews have expressed a “fundamental concern” over plans for a windfarm at Kenly Farm, near Boarhills.

St Andrews University has lodged an application for a six-turbine, 12.3 megawatt facility at the site, a few miles south of St Andrews, which is a major component of its strategy to offset rising energy costs.

However, the American owners of the five-star hotel complex claim it will threaten the company’s future growth and the wider St Andrews and Fife visitor economy.

In a letter to Fife Council planners on behalf of the hotel, consultants Colliers International warn that the 100-metre-high turbines will have “detrimental visual and economic impacts on existing established visitor-related land uses.”

Dismissing the claim in the institution’s environmental statement that the impact on tourism would be negligible, it says the analysis by Scotland’s oldest university is inadequate and inconclusive.

A spokesman said: ”Given the seamless hospitality experience on offer to worldwide visitors and local residents to the resort, it is considered the proposals will have a detrimental visual impact upon visitors to the Duke’s golf club, upon residents of the Hamilton Grand...and upon the wider visual experience of visitors to St Andrews.”

The multi-million pound redevelopment of Hamilton Hall into 26 luxury private residences linked to the resort will be ‘‘compromised’’ because the turbines will be clearly visible from the upper floors and communal rooftop terrace and will undermine the amenity for all the building’s future occupants, say the consultants.

INCOMPATIBLE

According to Colliers, the wind farm is incompatible with the Scottish Government and Fife Council’s objectives for “continued successful growth of the tourism economy in St Andrews and Fife”.

The spokesman added: ”This is because the impression that may be taken by visitors to the town and its facilities will not be what was expected or anticipated by them, in terms of their currently being able to enjoy views of an unspoilt landscape, which provides the setting to the historic town and its attractions such as the golf courses.

“The Old Course Hotel and resort exists and continues to grow as a ‘brand’ of worldwide appeal. The very aspects that offer this worldwide appeal are history, setting, exclusivity and quality. Few places in Scotland match these characteristics, hence the need for this planning application to be carefully assessed, bearing in mind the sensitivities and relative locations of the properties affected.”

ECONOMY

Fears have also been expressed that the wind farm will harm confidence in the tourism economy.

The spokesman continued: ”The economic scale of the hotel and resort should also not be underestimated in terms of its significance as a major resource to the Fife and Scottish economy. It is one of St Andrews’ highest employers (around 300 jobs) and its relevance to the continued growth of the Fife economy is a key material consideration.”

The Kenly Landscape Protection Group has welcomed the objection and a spokesman said: ”The hotel shares our concern about cumulative impacts of turbines in East Fife. There are numerous other turbine proposals which will affect the wider setting of St Andrews which need to be assessed in relation to the university wind farm and provided as additional information to Fife Council.”

Tom Burns, of the Stop the University Wind Farm Facebook Group, added: ”We believe the industrial scale of the university wind farm will permanently damage the landscape and unique setting of St Andrews for everyone, resident and visitor alike.

“The university’s interests have to be balanced against those of local businesses, visitors and residents.

‘‘From the start, local residents have been overwhelmingly against the proposal. Now that people at the sharp end of Fife’s tourism sector are joining them, we can only hope that those responsible for this application are listening.”