By Jamie Buchan

Plans for a massive windfarm in the north-east have been dealt a huge blow
by a senior local authority official.

Campaigners believe an environmental report on the multimillion-pound
scheme proposed for a site south of Peterhead could sound the death knell
for the project.

Councillors will now be urged to reject the bid by Edinburgh-based
renewables firm PNE Wind UK to instal eight turbines 330ft above the ground
at the Hill of Braco, near Hatton. Aberdeenshire Council environmental
planner Peter Fraser has revealed that the mast could be seen from as far
away as 18 miles on a clear day.

He believes the development – the largest of its kind in Buchan – would
have a major negative impact on the surrounding countryside.

The Braco plan has already attracted more than 1,000 complaints from
residents of the area.

It has also been criticised by the Ministry of Defence, air traffic
controllers in Aberdeen, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the
Scottish RSPB.

Mr Fraser, a senior member of Aberdeenshire Council’s transport and
infrastructure team, says in his report that the turbines could be three to
four times the height of nearby woodland and had the potential to be
dominate the surrounding area.

He adds: “With regard to landscape and visual issues, it is my opinion that
the proposed development would have a notably adverse impact, particularly
on the perceived landscape character of the site area.

“It is not advised that this wind energy application be supported,
particularly if valued natural aspects of the Aberdeenshire landscape in
this area are to be adequately conserved.”

Developers had earlier claimed widespread support for the scheme, citing a
phone poll of local residents that found 43% of the 346 households
questioned were in favour, while 21% were neutral and only 30% against.

As of last night, however, the number of letters and e- mails to
Aberdeenshire Council calling for the scheme to be rejected stood at more
than 1,040, with only a handful – fewer than five – written in support.

The majority of opponents argue that the area is already too cluttered with
turbines, with some claiming the project could cause irreversible damage to
a site of scientific interest known as the Moss of Cruden.

The most serious threat to the development comes from the Ministry of
Defence, which has claimed the turbines could interfere with radar signals
at nearby RAF Buchan.

An objection from the MoD is widely regarded as the kiss of death for
turbine developments.

Councillors are unlikely to back any proposal that could pose a risk to
national security.

Campaigner Michele Emslie, of Blackhills, said: “PNE continue to treat the
residents and community surrounding the site with total disregard and

She s aid one of t he biggest concerns remained proposed roads in and out
of the development.

“Should this proposal be approved, the new access road which will go
alongside two family homes will make residents’ lives intolerable and their
homes worthless,” she said.

“Residents are also concerned that they could lose vital water supplies.”

No one from PNE was willing to discuss Mr Fraser’s report last night, but a
spokeswoman revealed that the company’s meteorological mast – installed at
the Hill of Braco site three years ago – would be removed l ater t his month.

She said the 210ft structure had been set up to measure wind speeds and,
having served its purpose, would now be dismantled.

Hill of Braco project manager Megan Richardson said: “The temporary mast
has enabled PNE to assess the wind conditions of the site and we are
satisfied that we have now gathered sufficient data from the mast to inform
our proposals.”

The mast is likely to be reused at another potential windfarm site in the UK.

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