Newburgh turbine plan is shattered

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DREAMS of creating Fife’s first-ever community windfarm have been shattered — but the firm behind the plans insists that it was ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the positive comments made by the councillors who threw them out.

Newburgh-based Ecodyn Ltd. had lodged an application on behalf of Newburgh Community Trust to erect three turbines, each measuring 100m - taller than the Statue of Liberty - on a hilltop site at Braeside of Lindores.

They aimed to plough the profits of electricity sales back into local community, generating an estimated £331,000 every year for the 25 years of the project’s lifespan.

The application sparked a bitter online row which at one point became so heated that Trust chairman Andrew Arbuckle had to call for restraint.

More than 500 comments were received by Fife Council, around a quarter of them opposed to the project on the basis that the turbines would dominate the rural landscape and ruin the views from as far away as Perth and Kinross.

At Wednesday’s meeting of north east Fife area committee, members went along with planning officer Robert Stirling’s recommendation, voting by 10 votes to four to refuse the application.

But afterwards Ecodyn director Keir Allen said that although he was disappointed in the decision, he had been heartened by the fact that the application had met every planning requirement apart from its visual impact.

“It is unusual for an application to be turned down on the basis of just one aspect,” he commented.

“We will take this on board and review the formal reasons for refusal before considering whether an appeal is appropriate.

“It was an honest debate and we were pleasantly surprised by the positive tone of some of the comments made by councillors.”

Councillor Maggie Taylor, Tay Bridgehead, moved approval of the windfarm on the basis of the benefits it would bring to the local community.

“The benefits the scheme would bring would outweigh concerns about its visual impact,” she said.

“The hills of Perth and Kinross are scattered with high wind turbines and pylons. Another three won’t make any difference.”

She was seconded by Councillor Donald Lothian of Howe of Fife and Tay Coast - whose ward takes in the proposed site - who afterwards predicted that there would be a ‘significant measure of disappointment within the community.’

However Councillor Andy Heer, who also represents the Howe of Fife, said that although Newburgh Community Trust was ‘an exciting initiative with laudable aims’, the proposed location was ‘wholly inappropriate.’

Trust chair Andrew Arbuckle commented that he was ‘very disappointed’ but the decision was welcomed by Creich and Flisk Community Council, whose chairman Alan Evans said: “We are pleased this application was refused consent by a strong majority of councillors who were able to assess this application critically using relevant planning policies.

“Building three 100m tall turbines on a prominent hill, overshadowing a conservation village and within an outstanding area of countryside in a designated Special Landscape Area sounds like a project with barely any chance of success.

“This result sends a strong clear message that landscape of this high quality is not for sale.”