This blog entry is the bearer of some incredibly good news. The developers who wish to build a windfarm adjacent to Balintore Castle, have just had their appeal to the Scottish Government turned down. It was a mere 10 days ago (11th January 2012) that this final incontestable decision came through. Words cannot describe the relief that my neighbours and I feel. The threat has been there for the last 5 years and we have fought against the windfarm, as a community united by a common cause, for all this time. There were times when we each individually felt we couldn't go on; that it was a losing battle; and that we could no longer face reading yet another policy document in order to back-up our case in yet another letter. However, being a team, someone else would always run with the torch, while one dropped out of the race to recover.
In fact, the burden has been on our shoulders so long, that it is difficult to appreciate that the threat has gone, particularly because we thought the threat had gone once before. The first parent company involved pulled out due to "disappointing wind yields" from the test anemometer, so we breathed a sigh of relief that the site was "no go". This was reprieve number 1. However, some time later a second parent company became involved and the planning proposal was resubmitted to Angus Council The sickening feeling came back - it was like having an old wound re-opened. Worse still, was that Angus Council then approved the second proposal. Local councillors, however, overturned this decision, and we had reprieve number 2. Then came the appeal to the Scottish Government, who alarmingly could override local views to follow any government policy. The Government Reporter, Richard Hickman, visited the site on the 12th December 2012 to gather evidence and I met him at Balintore Castle.
Richard Hickman's decision to turn down the windfarm development which came through on the 11th January 2013, is our third reprieve. It has been officially designated as "final", so as far as any assurance can be believed, this is the best you can get.
Anyhow, the best way to make the almost unbelievable outcome believable is to have a party at the castle! :-) Watch this space.
During the visit, Richard Hickman proved very knowledgeable on Scottish Baronial architecture - but of course one could not hope, and he remained professionally objective throughout the day.
The fight has proved an education. It shows, I think, that organisations cannot be relied on to protect natural and built heritage, even those you might expect to stand their ground i.e. Angus Council Planning Department supported the windfarm; both Scottish National Heritage and Historic Scotland raised no objections. In the end, it was individuals who saved the day: the councillor who raised the motion against the windfarm and then the government reporter who looked with a clear eye at the situation. It shows how vigilant we have to be. If we do not fight, stay passive and hold back on making representations, then heritage and quality of life will assuredly be eroded for all of us. As much as I have been disappointed by organisations, I have been impressed by the system of checks and balances in the way things operate, that allows individuals to have a voice.
I have decided to append verbatim Richard Hickman's comments on Balintore Castle from the government report. These stand on their own and make an eloquent case for saving the castle from the development: section 59 is particularly worth reading The image I have included is a brilliant photograph by Michael Smith of Flying Scotscam, which shows both the castle and the proposed site of the wind farm (the hills on the right). What Richard says in words, Michael shouts with his lens. This beauty could have been lost.
Excerpts From the Decision Notice for Appeal PPA-120-2022.
55. Balintore Castle is a Victorian mansion house located about 2.5 kms to the northwest of the proposed wind farm. It is listed as being of special architectural or historic interest, grade A. It is in a seriously dilapidated state, but extensive renovation works have been commenced, and were in progress at the time of the site inspection. It would have a view of the wind farm, as shown in the images 3.4.14 (viewpoint 04) accompanying chapter
56. Historic Scotland considers that the proposed wind farm would have a medium impact on the setting of the building, rather than the high assessment given in the environmental statement. However Historic Scotland notes that it is the listed building which is the receptor, rather than those visiting the building who gain a view of the wind farm.
57. The proprietor of Balintore Castle, who is undertaking the gradual renovation works, is concerned that the wind farm would form a serious intrusion in the views from the castle. He points out the building has been located high on the hillside to take advantage of the panoramic views across unspoiled countryside. A roof terrace has been provided at the top of the castle tower to allow visitors to enjoy this view. The adverse effect of the wind farm on this view would undermine the prospects for the successful completion of the castle restoration works, and the continuing viable use of the renovated building.
58. I agree with Historic Scotland that the presence of the wind farm would have little or no effect on nearby views of the listed building and its immediate setting, which is well removed from the wind farm site and is seen in its own setting on the hillside.
59. The significance of the views out from the castle raised by the proprietor in relation to its status as a grade A listed building (as opposed to residential amenity, considered elsewhere in this notice) is a different matter, which appears to be somewhat discounted by Historic Scotland. However I note that the Historic Scotland description of the listed building refers to the “extensive views to the east and south”. The site visit confirmed that the castle tower has a high level balustraded viewing platform, served by a spiral stair and some tiny rooms/stores in the corner turrets, so it is easy to envisage that residents and visitors would visit the platform to enjoy the view. Similarly the castle sits on an extensive terrace, supported by a substantial retaining wall, which also gives panoramic views across the countryside to the east and south. Thus, in the circumstances pertaining to this particular building and chosen site, I accept the argument that the castle has been located and designed so that the occupants can take advantage of these views in a similar manner to enjoying views over an extensive abutting designed landscape. I also agree that given the effort that is going into the restoration of the building, and the public interest in completing the restoration of this listed building, it is important to ensure that the success of the restoration project is not undermined by any harmful changes to the building’s wider setting.
61. Drawing these matters together, for the reasons explained above, I conclude that the proposal would have an unacceptable landscape impact in the locality, and a detrimental effect on residential amenity, to the extent that it would not comply with the requirements of the planning policies cited in the reasons for refusal. I consider that it would also be likely to have an undesirable effect on the prospects for the continuing efforts to restore Balintore Castle, a grade A listed building.