Advice sought on windfarm plans

Aberdeenshire councillors have called for co-ordinated action by the local authority to deal with the controversial issue of windfarm developments.

Members of the Marr Area Committee, meeting on March 29 at Huntly, heard a claim that windfarm companies were going around the country, encouraging farmers and landowners to apply for wind projects on their land.

It was also claimed that applications for planning permission to erect windfarms were on the increase, but that the council had no clear guidelines for assessing the cumulative impact of wind turbines on the landscape and that councillors and staff needed to get together to agree how to tackle the issue.

Committee members were considering an application from a Strathbogie landowner. He was given the go-ahead to erect three wind turbines on his property near Rhynie, although the site of the development will be in an area of landscape significance and has been described also, by the council’s landscape planner, as being – “at the absolute limits of capacity for wind turbines.”

The application to build the three, 25m-high, 15kw turbines, came from Graham Burgess, Mains of Rhynie, near Rhynie. Members were told in a report the turbines would be operated in association with the farming enterprise at Mains of Rhynie.

This would, said the report, provide “an additional level of income, independent of the fluctuations of farm prices and will significantly reduce the farm’s carbon footprint.” The turbines would have an operational lifespan of about 25 years.

Subject to about 15 conditions, the planning service recommended granting the application, saying it was satisfied “the turbines would not have an adverse impact to the surrounding environment and landscape.”

But there were five letters objecting to the development. They expressed concerns about the cumulative impact that the proposal would have, with four other wind farms in the area and its potentially adverse impact on surrounding landscape and the Kildrummy valley.

Councillor Richard Stroud said it was a relatively small-scale development but “How do we guage the cumulative impact when such applications come along but we are not able to visualise the whole picture?”

Councillor Alastair Ross said he feared “our landscape is suffering death by a thousand cuts.” The current situation could not be allowed to continue much longer, he said.

Councillor Jill Webster said she did not see any reason why they should not grant the current application, but agreed the council did need to look at the wider situation and the effects of cumulative impact.

Councillor Peter Argyle seconded her motion but said the council needed to deal with the question of the number of windfarm applications coming to them and the way they dealt with them. The application went to a vote and Committee Members came down 5-4 in favour of granting Mr Burgess’s application