Permission granted for controversial ‘giant’ wind turbines on rural hillside

Wind turbines three times taller than the Wallace Monument – believed to be the first in the region to require aviation warning lights – have been approved by Stirling councillors.

Stirling Council’s Planning Committee has unanimously approved the five-turbine Shelloch Wind Farm, two kilometers north-west of Wester Cringate and south of Ling Hill in the Fintry and Gargunnock/Touch hills during a hearing on Wednesday.

Force 9 Energy LLP and EDFR’s application was approved subject to a legal agreement under Section 75.

Of the five wind turbines, two will have a maximum peak height of 180 meters and three will have a maximum peak height of 149.5 meters.

The wind farm will operate for 30 years on a site where planning permission had already been granted on appeal for a seven-turbine wind farm with a height of 125 meters.

Local councilor Martin Earl addressed the meeting on behalf of two communities – Port of Menteith and Thornhill – which he said would see the greatest negative impact from the turbines, which he described as ‘giants’.

He said: “These turbines are so big they have aircraft warning lights and interfere with radar.”

Councilor Earl said the call reporter’s comments on the previous application for the site should not apply given the significant difference in height and the increased level of power generation should not be used as a factor mitigating.

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He said neither area would “receive a dime” from the company’s community benefits program because the developer decided they weren’t eligible, adding, “If they did fact, they would have sensibly acknowledged the significant impact in those areas and they chose not to. I am extremely concerned about this.

Thornhill resident John-Paul Wilkinson said council guidelines said there was very little capacity for turbines under 120 meters and none for larger ones, but three of the proposed turbines were 180 meters, three times the height of the Wallace Monument. He also cited advice to back up the fact that the proposed development site was part of a 360 degree panorama from the Carse of Stirling.

“This is an unacceptable landscape change and completely out of step with the landscape.”

Mr Wilkinson and fellow objector Kate Sankey both cited tourism as being at risk.

Ms Sankey said: “Visitors to the area want dark skies, not 24-hour lights. The visitor experience will be miserably diminished at a time when people seek the solace of the countryside.

Andrew Smith, however, on behalf of the candidates, said the focus was now much more on meeting the Scottish Government’s net zero carbon targets and that the proposal would generate 80% more power from two turbines less than the existing approved project.

He said it would be carbon neutral in 18 months, meaning it would be carbon positive for the rest of the wind farm’s 30-year lifespan.

Six local communities affected by the wind farm would also be eligible for shares in a £3.6million community benefits pot.

Mr Smith argued that the new application was not different enough from the previous one to warrant a denial and that the new taller turbines had been “removed” to lessen the visual impact. He added that aviation lights would be brighter when there were more clouds, so naturally less visible.

“There is also no evidence showing that wind farms have an impact on tourism,” he added.

David King, from Gargunnock Community Council, said there had been little objection to the project from his community and that it would help achieve climate change goals. He said the new project was preferable to the previous one and if it were to be turned down, the developer could revert to previous plans.

“It is recognized that there will be some environmental impact, but in general it will not be visible from Gargunnock and the cumulative impact will not be significant.

“There will be approximately six kilometers of new lane required and construction traffic will also use the A811, but the disruption will be temporary and if properly managed would cause significant disruption.”

The council’s planning director, Jane Brookes-Burnett, said that while some guidance and policy criteria conflicted with the application, it was a matter of striking a balance with the fact that it was from a site with outbound planning consent.

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