Turbines three times the height of the Wallace Monument – thought to be the first in the area to need aviation warning lights – have been approved by Stirling councillors.
Stirling Council’s planning panel unanimously approved five-turbine Shelloch Wind Farm, two kilometres north west of Wester Cringate and south of Ling Hill in the Fintry and Gargunnock/Touch Hills at a hearing on Wednesday.
The application by Force 9 Energy LLP and EDFR was approved subject to a Section 75 legal agreement.
Of the five turbines, two will have a maximum tip height of 180 metres and three a maximum of 149.5 metres.
The wind farm will operate for 30 years on a site where planning permission had previously been granted on appeal for a seven-turbine wind farm with heights of 125 metres.
Local councillor 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.”
Councillor Earl said the appeal reporter’s comments on the previous application for the site shouldn’t apply given the significant difference in height and that the increased level of power generation shouldn’t be used as a mitigating factor.
He said neither of the two areas would “get a penny” in the company’s community benefit scheme because the developer had decided they weren’t eligible, adding: “Had they done so they would have noticeably acknowledged the significant impact in these areas and they chose not to do so. I’m extremely concerned about that.”
Thornhill resident John-Paul Wilkinson said council guidance stated there was very little capacity for turbines under 120 metres and none for larger ones, yet three of the turbines proposed were 180 metres – three times the height of the Wallace Monument. He also cited guidance to back up 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 keeping with the landscape setting.”
Both Mr Wilkinson and fellow objector Kate Sankey cited tourism 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 people are seeking solace from the countryside.”
Andrew Smith, however, on behalf of the applicants, said there was now much more emphasis on meeting the Scottish Government’s net zero carbon targets and the proposal would generate 80 per cent more energy from two fewer turbines than the existing consented project.
He said it would be carbon neutral in 18 months, meaning it would be carbon positive for the remainder of the 30 year lifespan of the wind farm.
Six local communities impacted by the wind farm would also be eligible for shares in a community benefit pot of £3.6 million.
Mr Smith argued the new application was not significantly different enough from the previous one to warrant refusal and that the new taller turbines had been “pulled back” to mitigate visual impact. He added that the aviation lights would be brighter when it was cloudier therefore naturally less visible.
“There is also no evidence to show that wind farms impact on tourism,” he added.
David King of Gargunnock Community Council said there had been little objection to the project from his community and it would help to meet climate change targets. He said the new project was preferable to the previous one and if it was to be refused the developer could revert to the previous plans.
“It’s recognised that there will be some environmental impact but in general it won’t be visible from Gargunnock and the cumulative impact will not be significant.
“There will be around six kilometres of new track required and construction traffic will also use the A811 but the disruption will be temporary and if properly managed would cause any significant disruption.”
The council’s chief planning officer Jane Brookes-Burnett said while some guidance and policy criteria were at odds with the application it was about striking a balance with the fact that this was on a site with exiting planning consent.