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Windfarm vote will trigger public inquiry

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By Fiona Reid
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Windfarm vote will trigger public inquiry

OPPOSING reactions have been expressed to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s decision last week to object to the Scoop Hill windfarm.

Councillors on the planning committee voted to lodge their opposition with Scottish Ministers to plans by Community Windpower Ltd (CWL) for 60 turbines in Eskdalemuir Forest – site pictured above.

Elected members went against the advice of their own officials, citing concerns over the scheme’s ‘significant and adverse effect on landscape, character and visual amenity in the locality’.

As they are statutory consultees, the decision will now trigger a formal public inquiry.

The move has been welcomed by members of the Save Our Hills Moffat campaign group.

A spokesperson said: “The announcement that the planning applications committee had raised a formal objection to the planning application for the Scoop Hill windfarm was welcome news.

“It came as a surprise – many were fearful of a reverse result on account of many procedural flaws that inadvertently favoured the developer’s case and conspired against community involvement.

“The turnaround was achieved through submissions from individuals and community councils who were committed enough to write to their councillors telling of their concerns.

“Even more importantly, it was backed up by the courage of their councillors to voice these concerns on their constituents’ behalf and challenge the planning recommendation.”

Commenting on the likehood of an inquiry, the group added: “This will give both sides of the windfarm debate an opportunity to be heard. “For many communities in our region this is a small but significant step forward toward persuading the ‘powers that be’ to moderate the proliferation of windfarms that is despoiling our region and disrupting our rural communities.”

However, developers CWL were left disappointed and say they carried out an intensive consultation process.

They also pointed out they had reduced turbine numbers from 75 to 60 so there would be less visible impact from some viewpoints; and highlighted the project could add £54.4 million to the local economy during the construction and development stage, then generate £5.4 million per year for the council in business rates.

CWL managing director Rod Wood said: “We are extremely disappointed – and also baffled – that Dumfries and Galloway’s planning committee has refused to give their approval to Scoop Hill Community Wind Farm and chosen to go against the advice of the council’s qualified planning officers.

“Our confusion is compounded by the fact that Scoop Hill is located in their own preferred area for such developments and that it has been significantly reduced in size, in accordance with advice given by their own landscape architect.

“By taking this decision, councillors are standing in the way of a project that will create hundreds of jobs, bring in tens of millions of pounds of local investment and help fight climate change by decarbonising the energy grid and providing clean, green electricity.”

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