Decision For Wind Farm Site Visit Provokes Calls To ‘Make it Soon’

By Jane Cruickshank / December 10, 2020

AT TUESDAY’S meeting of the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, councillors voted to hold a site visit before determining an application for a wind farm at moorland near Rickarton.

But site visits are not permitted at the moment – so the move provoked concern amongst members of Stonehaven and District Community Council, SDCC, who are to write to the area manager asking for the matter to be dealt with expediently.

The Craigneil Wind Farm proposal by Ireland’s part state-owned electricity utility company ESB, would see 11 turbines at land approximately 6.5km to the north west of Stonehaven and 11km south east of Banchory.

While recommending the development for approval, planning officers did highlight one key concern – the landscape and visual effects. These were discussed by senior planning officer James Wheater during his presentation to the committee, which included photo-montages of the wind farm from various locations – including the Black Hill.

Mr Wheater described the War Memorial as quite a sensitive viewpoint.

He said: ”The wind farm would be quite a significant feature in the landscape looking north; a landscape aready affected by Meikle Carewe.”

He added: ”There would be a significant impact from this viewpoint.”

Mr Wheater said there were also concerns about the impact from another viewpoint – Elsick Mounth, Auquhollie Wood.

”But these have to be balanced with the benefits of the development which are a significant contribution to renewable energy generation and a modest economic benefit,” he added.

Despite delays of perhaps several months due to Covid-19 guidelines – and the possibility the applicant could appeal to the Scottish Government on the grounds of non-determination – councillors, as would be usual for such a large development, went on to vote for a site visit, so they could assess its landscape and visual impacts.

Community Council Looking to Cumulative Benefits

Meanwhile members of our community council appear to be more concerned about another potential cumulative impact of the windfarm on the town of Stonehaven – a cash boost.

ESB say they are committed to providing a community benefit fund of £5,000 per MW per annum, index linked, for the lifetime of the project, meaning that the wind farm would provide £176,000 every year to the local area – and provoking a letter of support from SDCC.

And at SDCC’s meeting on Tuesday night, Raymond Christie said he was disappointed to see the Area Committee had requested a site visit.

”I want to send a letter to the area manager saying the site visit should be as soon as possible so that it can go before the area comittee at their February meeting,” he said.

”You can keep to a two-metre distance. I would suggest it can be done, so we can get this wind farm project up and running.”

Developer hopes site visit takes place soon

ESB Renewables Project Director Brian Hegarty told The Bellman: “We thank councillors for their time at the Area Committee and we are confident that a site visit, when able to take place, will demonstrate that Craigneil Wind Farm has been designed to sit comfortably within the local landscape. 

”We hope that the site visit can take place as soon as possible, in line with Covid-19 restrictions, so a decision can be made on the project. 

”We have worked extremely hard to bring forward a policy compliant proposal and we would like to thank the local community and consultees for their time and input into the project to date.

“Craigneil Wind Farm represents a significant investment by ESB into Aberdeenshire and, if consented, we are committed to working with local companies to deliver the wind farm.”

The full report on the wind farm, along with the slides used in the presentation, are available online, where is also a Microsoft Teams link to a recording of the meeting. A video link to the meeting will also be posted on the Council’s Youtube channel in due course.

Featured image for illustrative purposes only