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Objectors win fight to halt creation of new north-east wind turbine and solar farm development

Artist impression of how the turbines near St Fergus would look.
Artist impression of how the turbines near St Fergus would look.

Plans for a new energy plant in the north-east which left hundreds of villagers “horrified” have been thrown-out by councillors.

The controversial plans by St Fergus Energy Limited to build two 119m-high turbines and a solar farm on land between the village and the gas terminal prompted more than 340 objections.

That outcry, alongside its non-compliance with the local development plan, saw the proposals, submitted by Midlothian firm Green Cat Renewables, put before a special meeting of Buchan area committee.

Aberdeenshire Council planning officer James Hewitt recommended they be refused as they failed to comply with two local development plan policies namely C2, which discourages the development of wind energy within 2km of a settlement, and E2, which seeks to stop development that would have an unacceptable impact on key landscape features, composition or quality.

He said: “The scale and sighting of the proposed development would compete with St Fergus gas terminal for visual dominance and would create extensive industrial development encroaching upon an otherwise natural and open landscape.”

Eight of the objectors also addressed the committee, arguing for the development, which included the two turbines, a 5MWp solar photovoltaic farm and battery storage units, to be refused.

Local resident and gas terminal employee Debbie Milne said she was “horrified” at the proximity of the proposals to the village and gas site.

“If a blade failure or turbine collapse were to happen due to these turbines then it could lead to a major accident at the gas site, which has high-pressure pipelines of up to 100 bar within their fences, but also underground only a metre down between the two proposed turbines,” she said.

Fellow villager and objector John Buchan added: “I plead with you to reject this application and support the villager of St Fergus, who are dead against this development.

“These two turbines are only two turbines and the only people who benefit from this are the applicants.

“The repercussions if one were to fail doesn’t bear thinking about, not only for the villagers’ safety but for the whole country’s gas supply.”

Other objectors also spoke of worries over the impact on the landscape, noise, road safety and the encroachment of the development towards the village.

The applicant Elaine Booth, of Ednie Farm in St Fergus, however, argued the project could help the gas terminal reduce its carbon footprint and create three permanent jobs.

She added: “My family has farmed at Ednie for over 100 years and diversified into wind energy ten years ago.

“We provide local employment and trade locally. We live in, participate in and support the local community.

“Our existing businesses have an exemplary track record and the new projects will be owned and operated by us.”

She added: “This project will contribute to tackling climate change through the production of renewable energy from wind and solar.

“It will address the need to decarbonise and promote energy transition at an important industrial site in our area.”

Those pleas failed to curry favour with councillors though, who unanimously opposed the plans in line with the policy issues raised.

Only councillor Stephen Smith suggested he saw some merits in the application, saying: “The body of the report is actually quite positive about the merits of the application…in  many other respects it’s a good application and otherwise would have been worthy of support.”

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