Government Reporter throws out Moray windfarm appeal

Brown Muir windfarm appeal is rejected
Brown Muir windfarm appeal is rejected

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT REPORTER has upheld a decision by Moray Council planners not to allow a major windfarm development at Rothes.

An intense campaign against the proposals by developers Vento Ludens to create what would have been some of the largest wind turbines in Scotland on Brown Muir contributed to the proposals being thrown out by Moray planners.

Edinburgh-based firm Vento Ludens lodged their plan three years ago, with an original bid for 19 turbines subsequently being thrown out.  They returned last year with a revised bid for 12 turbines, but again that was dismissed by the local authority – but only on the casting vote of planning and regulatory services committee chairman Councillor Chris Tuke.

SNP members on the committee had pressed hard for the windfarm bid to be accepted – despite there being 1300 objections lodged from the public.

Vento were encouraged to launch an appeal against the decision to the Scottish Government Reporter in January, having seen several similar appeals ending with a local authority decision being overturned.  One of the leading supporters of the plan, Councillor Pearl Paul, said “I’m prepared to accept whatever decision the government may take, there are quite a lot of folk in this area who are happy with the idea.”

Now the Reporter has published his findings, dismissing the appeal and confirming the refusal of planning permission.

In the decision released yesterday, the Reporter agreed that the reasoning of Moray Council planners was sound when they rejected the proposals on grounds of the visual impact the turbines would create, finding that the local authority was also adhering to their own local development plan.

He concluded: “The proposed development does not accord overall with the provisions of the development plan and that there are no material considerations which would still justify granting planning permission.

“I have considered all other matters raised, including the location of other wind turbine developments in relation to the uplands and other landmark hills, but there are none which would lead me to alter my conclusions.”

In his decision, the Reporter accepted that the Vento Ludens proposal for the Rothes site would help in national carbon reduction targets – but the visual impact was a primary concern.

He said: “In relation to other material considerations, the proposal would align with the national framework and national policy in contributing to renewable energy targets and helping Scotland move to a low carbon place.  In addition, its economic contribution through investment and job creation would contribute to sustainable economic growth.

“However, the landscape and visual impacts identified would not follow the advice set out in the council’s non-statutory Moray On-Shore Wind Energy Guidance or Wind Energy Capacity Study.”

The reporter added: “The development would fail to protect or enhance the landscape or successfully mitigate the substantial visual impacts predicted.

“Therefore, balancing the costs and benefits of the proposal over the longer term, I conclude that the proposal would not be located in the right place and overall would not contribute to sustainable development.”

Last night Councillor Tuke welcomed the decision, telling insideMoray: “I am pleased to see that the Reporter has confirmed the decision of the Local Planning Regulatory Services Committee and its interpretation of its own Development Plan.

“This is a much needed boost for local democracy and I believe that the numerous of objectors, who agreed with the Committee decision, will be most satisfied.”