WINDFARMS dominated the agenda at Monday’s meeting of Mearns Community Council. A host of windfarm applications are in the pipeline for the area and the community council has a concern about over-proliferation.
If however the march of the giant wind turbines proves to be unstoppable, the community council is gain to ensure that the developers pay as much as possible in “community benefit”.
Chairman David Nelson said the community council had to get to grips with the situation. Their policy at the moment was to treat each application individually and he felt that policy should be revisited.
Mr Nelson circulated a map showing the number of turbines that have either been built, been approved or are at the application stage within a 15km radius of Laurencekirk.
He then read a letter from the Friends of Garvock, a body which led objections to the proposed Garvock Hill development three years ago.
The letter writer, David Johnston, stated that an application for a single turbine on Smiddyhill Farm, Garvock was due to go before the area committee on June 7.
He called on the community council to ask Aberdeenshire Council to hold a site visit, pointing out that the proposed turbine was in the same area as was rejected by an inquiry reporter.
Jim Stuart said that if the turbine was a tool to assist the farmer it should not be refused and Alan Mowat asked what was so special about this turbine. “There should be site visits every time as these things have a huge effect.”
Mr Johnston’s letter further asked if the community council would speak against the turbine or if they would represent the views of Friends of Garvock and the wider community and the community council’s response was no in each case.
Mr Nelson said that Enco, the company behind the Tullo Windfarm were to hold a public meeting in June and were seeking the “sensible expansion” of their windfarm.
He went on to say that adjacent to Tullo, the N.R. Gammie Partnership were seeking five turbines and nearby at The Shiells, Lloyd Garvie was seeking three turbines.
“That would be 15 all in the same locus, excluding however many the Tullo extension might be. How much is one community expected to absorb?”
Mr Stuart said that the existing £17,000 per annum community benefit derived from Tullo was not nearly enough and he said the council should negotiate a far better deal.
Councillor George Carr quickly pointed out that councillors have nothing to do with community funds and that is the job of the planning gain officer.
Mr Mowat asked if the planning gain officer would be able to say what percentage of a windfarm’s income he would attempt to secure and that there had to be checks and balances for his role.
Trevor Hodgson said he did not like the idea of a price being fixed to put these things up and Mr Mowat said they were in fact being “blackmailed” into taking the money.
Mr Nelson said that no planning application for these development were in and until they were, the community council could do nothing.
Councillor Carr commented that the Local Plan was too vague in terms of windfarm applications.
He said officer recommendation carries a lot of weight and the community council should ask officers what criteria they work to in relation to such applications.
“The Garvock is an iconic area and you should pin them down as to their policy.”
Mr Mowat said that the local plan’s failure to detail where turbines should go had left the door wide open for applications.
Mr Stuart said the quality of people’s lives should be the first criteria and that a distinction should be made between a farmer seeking a tool and a commercial development.
Member of the public Peter Buxton warned that if the Smiddyhill turbine was allowed, the developers of the previously rejected Garvock scheme would be back “as fast as their legs could carry them” arguing a precedent had been set.