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Government throws out Mormond Hill turbine plan

Mormond Hill
Mormond Hill

Plans to build a windfarm at a north-east landmark overlooking the home village of former first minister Alex Salmond have been rejected by the Scottish Government.

Muirden Energy wanted to erect a dozen 326ft turbines on top of Mormond Hill – Buchan’s highest peak.

But the proposals left people in Strichen outraged and were blocked by Aberdeenshire councillors.

Now their decision has been upheld by Scottish Government planning reporters after the developer appealed against the local authority’s decision.

Mormond Hill – near Fraserburgh – was once home to a NATO radar station designed to provide an early warning of any attack by the former Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

It is also famous for the large, white quartz mosaics of a horse and stag embedded in its slopes, and popular with visitors who use its walking and cycling routes.

When the Muirden plans were first tabled four years ago objectors in Strichen launched the Turbine-Free Mormond Hill Group, which attracted about 90 supporters.

People put placards outside their homes to signal their opposition to the scheme.

Muirden had identified the hill as one of the most efficient sites in Scotland for harnessing wind power and claimed it had the potential to generate 100 gigawatts of energy annually.

Last night, it appeared unlikely there would be any attempt to resurrect the project.

The SNP administration at Holyrood has a target of generating 100% of Scotland’s electricity from renewables by 2020 and has been accused of overruling council decisions in other areas to pave the way for windfarms to be built

But reporters from the government’s appeals department spent two days examining the hill before deciding the scheme was not appropriate.

They said the addition of 12 large-scale turbines on Mormon’s skyline would have a “significant adverse effect” on the area’s landscape.

They added: “This adverse effect would be exacerbated by the cumulative impact with other implemented and consented turbines in the area.

“Whilst not being so significant on their own, they would combine with the proposed turbines to create a landscape in which wind turbines would become a dominant feature of the landscape.”

Muirden’s planning application attracted 416 letters of representation from the public – 182 of which objected to the development.

A spokesman for Green Cat Renewables, which is working as the agent for the company at the site, said it was “unlikely” that a fresh planning application would be submitted to the local authority.

He said: “We’re just the consultants on this, but because of the wind subsidy cuts and the appeal being dismissed, I think it is unlikely the plans would be coming forward again.”

And Alex Fowlie, Muirden’s business development manager, said it was “probable” that the Scottish Government’s decision to reject his firm’s appeal would signal end for the scheme.

In June, the UK Government announced it would cancel all subsidies for new onshore wind farms from April 1 next year.

At the time, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said that while wind power was “important”, the country was “reaching the limits of what is affordable and what the public is prepared to accept”.

A spokesman for former SNP leader Mr Salmond MP, who lives at Strichen with his wife Moira, said the Aberdeenshire East MSP and Gordon MP would not comment on the planning application’s collapse.

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