Sunday, 27 April 2014

Carrach Windfarm Redux

I have just had some awful news: a planning application was submitted at the beginning of this month for a wind farm immediately opposite Balintore Castle.

This is the third application by the same developers since 2008 so you can imagine how ground down my neighbours and I have been fighting these proposals.

Objections have to submitted within a week, so there is little time for action. Please help me object by filling-up the online form provided by Angus Council here. No need to write an essay on why you object, a sentence will be fine.

My own objection letter to the planning officer at Angus Council is appended. This will help you understand my position. The location of the two turbines, reduced in number from the previous application, and their relation to the view from Balintore Castle is shown in the map below.

location of two proposed wind turbines adjacent to Balintore Castle

Letter To Angus Council Planning Department

Dear Mr. Taylor,

I wish to object in the strongest possible terms to planning application 14/00276/FULL henceforth referred to as the Carrach Wind Farm.

The wind turbines will be close to and visible from Balintore Castle. This is a Grade A listed Baronial building (1860) which is the late masterpiece of its Scottish architect William Burn (1789-1870). With the cooperation of Angus Council, I have devoted my life to restoring this building, and the Carrach Wind Farm would devastate the setting. To permit this development would be very much like Angus Council scoring an “own goal”.

The appeal from the developers regarding their previous Carrach Wind Farm application, was rejected by the reporter from the Scottish government. The decision and reasoning can be found in Angus Council Report No 81/13

The reporter’s conclusion was that no wind farm should ever be built in this location. You can imagine how that this third planning application for a Carrach WInd Farm is twisting a knife in a wound that is already deep and longstanding, The blight of the Carrach Wind farm has been hanging over the Glen Quharity since 2008. It is a common tactic of planning applications to scale the development down, in an attempt to look not too bad in the light of the previous application, and this is a feature of 14/00276/FULL . I entreat Angus Council to look at the application on its own (de?)merits: the arguments of the Council’s report 81/13 are still valid and I ask the Council to honour their report and reject 14/00276/FUL.

My neighbours, the residents of this intimate unspoiled glen, thought that with the reporter’s assurance of no more wind farms we were perhaps safe. There is a clear need for a coordinated national policy for dealing with wind farm applications, otherwise Councils and local inhabitants will be exhausted and overwhelmed by successive applications in the same location (as here) or in the same vicinity.,

I quote sections 3.2, 3.59 and 3.65 of the Council’s report 81/13 as my own reasons for recommending refusal.

3.2 Planning permission was refused for the following reasons:

(1) The development would result in unacceptable adverse landscape impacts having regard to landscape character and setting within the immediate and wider landscape and, as such, is contrary to policy 6 of TAYplan and policies ER5 and ER34 (criterion b) of the Angus Local Plan Review 2009.

(2) The development would have an unacceptable visual impact on the occupants of residential properties and the wider landscape and, as such, is contrary to policy 6 of TAYplan and policies S1 criterion (b), S6 criterion (b), ER34 criterion (a) and policy ER35 criterion (c) of the Angus Local Plan Review (2009).

3.59 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.

3.65 On balance, taking account of the very attractive rural landscape character of this area and the serious visual intrusion that would be obvious in the locality on a daily basis for a very long period, I consider that the modest contribution that would be made to renewable energy targets by this relatively small wind farm together with the temporary benefit to the local economy during construction and the continuing income to the two farm businesses during the operational period are insufficient to outweigh the harm resulting from landscape impact, and hence to do not justify a departure from the planning policies. This outcome is in line with national policy (Scottish Planning Policy paragraph 187) which states that wind farm proposals should be supported where environmental impacts can be satisfactorily addressed, which I consider is not the case at this site.

These three sections can be summarised as valid planning objection criteria of “setting of listed building” and “bad neighbour”.

My immediate neighbours and I were not on the developer’s list of notified neighbours. This is despite the fact that the developers are keenly aware, as stated in their documentation, that a large part of the previous rejection was based on the impact on Balintore Castle. It is distressing that they they have not done the courtesy of communicating with me, especially when the timescales as here are very tight i.e. there is only around a month for objections to be lodged. Thankfully, I was informed by some eagle-eyed neighbours,

Yours sincerely,

Dr. David Johnston
Balintore Castle