Rora wind turbine plans in doubt

BUCHAN planners are being recommended to refuse consent for the erection of an 850kw wind turbine at Middleton of Rora near Peterhead.

Members of the Buchan area committee will consider the application from Mr and Mrs B. Mackie of Middleton of Rora when they meet in Peterhead later today (Tuesday).

The applicants want to erect a 81 metre high wind turbine on farmland to the south east of St Fergus at Middleton of Rora farm which is located to the south of the Rora to Hallmoss road, some distance south of the small hamlet of Rora.

The proposed site is located in the middle of an agricultural field within a relatively flat, open agricultural landscape north of Peterhead. Longside Airfield lies around 2.3 km at its closest point from the site of the proposed turbine.

Access to the site will be provided by upgrading an existing access point to the west of a farm cottage alongside a field boundary which is lined by hedging. Hedging also lines the public roadside.

Members will hear that the application has been advertised and a total of 18 letters of support from 15 properties (15 representations in total) have been received.

The reasons for support mainly relate to the limited visual impact in this particular location; the need to support renewable technologies and welcoming farm diversification and economic benefits.

In a report to go before today’s meeting, planning officer Katherine Donnachie says CHC Scotia was consulted as licensee of Longside Airfield and duly passed the consultation onto its lessee, North East Aviators.

“North East Aviators initially objected to the application on the grounds that the height of the turbine would cause a major obstacle to the continuing operations of the club with a resultant loss of amenities to the north east,” she says.

“They were asked for further details as to the basis of their objection in terms of air safety issues and duly provided a plan of flight paths. While accepting that the proposed turbine is more than 2000m away from their runways they continued to remain concerned with particular reference to the following points.

“The rapid changeability of the weather in the area causing returning aircraft to fly under descending cloud cover; the operating limitation of aircraft based and visiting Longside, some only achieving a climb rate of 300ft per minute at a forward speed of less than 50 mph and the southerly component in the prevailing wind causing returning aircraft to land on the North South runway.

“As a result of these factors they believed that the development would be a potential hazard to the flying club’s operations.”

Ms. Donnachie states: “Given the amount of pressure for wind energy developments across Aberdeenshire it is essential that new proposals are carefully considered to ensure they comply fully with planning policies.

“In general terms key technical consultees are satisfied that there will be no adverse impact upon aviation, radar, telecommunications and meteorological interests, subject to appropriate conditions, for example regarding aviation lighting.

“However the Civil Aviation Authority noted that the impact upon the operations at Longside Airfield needed to be fully considered through consultation with the operator and this leads onto the next specific point of the impact upon an existing unlicensed aerodrome.

“The flying club (North East Aviators) has objected to the proposed turbine as it is concerned that it will present an unacceptable risk to the users of the aerodrome.

“This application complies fully with council planning policies for wind energy apart from in relation to the potential impact upon an unlicensed aerodrome,” she says.

“While I have sympathy with the applicant’s position in relation to the aviation matters, the objections of the airfield operator are a key planning consideration, with CAA advice highlighting that the views of the operator of an unlicensed aerodrome are important.

“This service is not in a technical position to overrule these views and recommend approval.

“Consequently in these circumstances it is considered that, as it has not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the local operator that the proposed turbine will not impact adversely on the safety of present or possible future operations at the airfield, the application fails to comply with policies which seek to ensure that new development does not impact adversely upon the safety of present or possible future operations at existing airfields.

“Refusal is therefore recommended solely for this reason. It is also recommended that discussions be progressed with the airfield operator to agree formal consultation zones and criteria and so avoid similar issues arising in future,” she adds.