Windfarm campaigners claim first round victory

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Controversial plans for two adjacent windfarms in the Howe of Fife have been given the thumbs down by local councillors.

But objectors still face a battle to persuade Fife Council’s strategic planning committee the proposals would have a detrimental effect on the area.

The majority of councillors on the north east Fife area committee agreed on Wednesday that the three-turbine plan for Clatto Farm and the five-turbine plan for Devon Wood, both on Clatto Hill, were not acceptable.

Their list of concerns included the negative impact and cumulative effect of eight turbines - five of which would be 115 metres tall - on the landscape, residential amenity, tourism and the economy, as well as the loss of recreational use and the impact on wildlife.

In the case of the Clatto Farm application, there was also concern raised over the impact on military and civilian radar capabilities.

The discussion – which lasted for almost four hours – also saw several councillors express concerns that due to Fife Council’s scheme of delegation, the final say on the application would be given to the local authority’s planning authority, of which only four north east Fife councillors are members.

The plans also still have to go before the Levenmouth area committee as an anemometer mast at Devon Wood lies just outside the north east Fife boundary.

Discussing the three-turbine plan first, councillors questioned planner Chris Smith on a number of planning issues before giving their personal views on the application.

HIDDEN

Voicing his opposition, Councillor Ron Caird described the turbines as “skyscrapers”, adding: “A city built on a hill cannot be hidden”.

He went on to say the plans would result in the “rape of Fife’s beauty and attractiveness.”

Councillor Frances Melville said she was worried about the “anxiety and distress” local residents have had to go through since Scottish Power first lodged an application (later rejected) for a 17 turbine windfarm on the same hillside.

“They have had to put up with a lot and it has not gone away yet,” she said.

Cupar councillor Roger Guy said that while “our very way of life depends on electrical power”, the developments were objectionable and contrary to a raft of policy guidelines and did nothing to improve the area.

Making his opposition views known, Howe of Fife councillor David MacDiarmid said the visual impact on the Howe of Fife and further afield was immense and would not reflect the scale and character of the landscape.

He was also concerned about how the turbines would be constructed on such a rural site and the effect on wildlife and trees.

BLACKMAIL

The majority of councillors agreed that the same concerns applied to the Devon Wood application put forward by West Coast Energy – despite it recently reducing its plan from seven turbines to five and the height of them from 121 metres to 115 metres.

Comments were also made that West Coast Energy’s community benefit package — comprising £43,750 annually for the next 25 years for the closest communities plus the creation of six college scholarships — was tantamount to “emotional blackmail”.

Some councillors suggested the Scottish Government should change the way community benefit is dealt with in the planning process.

Campaigners Clatto Landscape Protection Group (CLPG) said later they were extemely gratified that councillors had “sided with the need to take planning policies seriously”.

A spokesman said: “They (the councillors) have used them to protect this local environment from an unprecedented threat from these wholly inappropriate policies.

“Our group hopes the wisdom of the north east Fife area committee will prevail in the Levenmouth committee and in the planning committee on March 20 when the final decision will be taken.”

Taybridgehead councillor Tim Brett was the only member to vote for the windfarms.

He said both the Scottish Government and Fife Council had to support renewable energy especially given the rising cost of fuel.