A Government planning reporter has overturned a unanimous vote by Fife councillors to block proposals for the six turbine development at Kenly Farm, three miles South east of St Andrews.
The wind farm is being developed by St Andrews University and the turbines - each 328ft high - will be used to generate an expected 12.3 megawatts of electricity to be connected to the university’s high voltage network at the North Haugh Campus.
Both Fife Council and Scottish Natural Heritage had raised “significant concerns” relating to the impact of the proposed development on the historic skyline of St Andrews, the landscape setting of the town, and the visual amenity from town’s West Sands and the Links.
But planning reporter Alistair Edwards has ruled that the renewable energy scheme will have “no significant impact” on surrounding communities or the built or natural environment.
Linda Holt, a spokeswoman for the anti-wind farm campaign group, Scotland Against Spin, condemned the decision. And she claimed: “Many Fifers will be devastated by this undemocratic decision.. It will wreck the landscape, destroy quality of life for local residents and damage the tourist trade in the East Neuk.
“This wind farm will become a sorry symbol of the arrogant contempt with which university managers regard St Andrews and Fife”
John Goodwin, the chairman of the Kenly Landscape Protection Group which has spent four years campaigning against the proposal, said campaigners were “baffled” by the reporter’s decision.He said : “Every single councillor voted against this wind farm and local communities were wholeheartedly against it.”
He claimed: “People’s enjoyment of their homes will be diminished and house prices will inevitably fall. Similarly holiday homes and other rental accommodation will find it harder to find tenants.”
Mr Goodwin added: “KLPG is also looking into the possibility of judicial review based on Lady Clark’s ruling last week (on the Viking Energy wind farm on Shetland) that unless wind farm applicants have a licence to generate from Ofgem their application is incompetent. The University of St Andrews has no such licence. We wrote to the Chief Reporter last week to warn her that any consent would be unsafe on these grounds.”
A spokesman for St Andrews University said: “We await the full detail of the reporter’s decision, but are delighted that our appeal has been upheld and that this important project can finally go ahead. Kenly has always been central to our efforts to generate our own clean, green power, reduce our exposure to crippling external energy price-rises and protect local jobs in Fife.”
He added: “We recognise that our plans for Kenly prompted passionate opposition from some people, but also very significant levels of support from within the local community. We remain fully committed to open discussions with local people about the detail of a community benefit scheme.”
In his ruling, Mr Edwards states that the blades of three turbines would be visible from St Andrews and that “attention would be drawn more readily to them as a consequence of their movement.” But he argues that the impact would not be prominent, and would not significantly harm the appearance or landscape setting of St Andrews.
He continues: “The turbines would be visible to outdoor recreational users. There are a number of coastal golf courses within ten kilometres of the appeal site, including the Old Course in St Andrews. Turbine blades would be visible from some holes on this course and others to the north of St Andrews. However, I consider that players’ (and observers’) attention would be primarily on the game, the golf course itself, the expansive sea views, and buildings and prominent landmarks in St Andrews.
“The movement of the blades may draw attention. However, the distance to the blades, a dip in the landscape where the turbines would be located, tree screening, the presence of a caravan park in the foreground (to the east of St Andrews), and the presence of the Fairmont hotel to the east of the appeal site would all reduce the visual impact of the blades. The visual impact from other courses including Crail, Kingsbarns, Fairmont, and The Castle golf courses would similarly be reduced to users due to attention to seascapes.
“No significant impacts to communities, the built or natural environment would occur.”