Prestwick Airport alarmed at ‘magnitude’ of being denied future compensation for impact of wind turbines on radar

Nationalised South Ayrshire site says planning decision will have “significant technical, operational and financial consequences”

Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport has expressed alarm at the “magnitude” of being blocked from claiming compensation from wind farm operators for the potential future impact of new turbines on its radar.

It follows ministers last month agreeing with the findings of a public inquiry into a proposed wind farm that the cost of mitigation measures “should be demonstrably incurred by Prestwick Airport and that there is no basis for ongoing compensatory payments to be made”.

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A letter from a law firm acting for Prestwick said the decision would have "significant technical, operational and financial consequences for the airport".

Ryanair is Prestwick's sole passenger airline. (Photo by National World)Ryanair is Prestwick's sole passenger airline. (Photo by National World)
Ryanair is Prestwick's sole passenger airline. (Photo by National World)

It also revealed that, within days of the decision, the airport had held an “urgent board briefing”, “consulted extensively with its legal and expert team” and arranged a consultation with senior counsel. It said a further board briefing would be required following the consultation.

The letter to the Scottish Government’s planning appeals division also referred to “magnitude of the implications of the Scottish minsters’ decisions” and stated: “We hope the significance of these determinations to the airport and the wider aviation industry is clear.”

However, the airport declined Scotland on Sunday’s request to explain this and provide further details.

Wind farm operators have hailed the planning decision as a “massive step forward” in halting what they claim is a “manufactured income stream”.

Wind turbines near Glasgow. (Photo by Martin McCarthy/Getty Images/iStockphoto)Wind turbines near Glasgow. (Photo by Martin McCarthy/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Wind turbines near Glasgow. (Photo by Martin McCarthy/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Community Windpower, which was given consent to build 44 turbines near Sanquhar, 30 miles from the airport, last week shelved the scheme because of rising costs, but several other wind farm applications in the area are in the pipeline, against which the airport has lodged objections.

The firm had accused the airport of seeking to profiteer by demanding an agreement for annual payments over the 40-year lifetime of the development in return for withdrawing its objection to the scheme.

But the airport, which received £5 million in wind farm compensation payments from 2019 to 2021 alone, has argued it will have to spend large sums upgrading its radar to mitigate the effects of the turbines.

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South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “The comments from Prestwick’s lawyers show that the reporters’ recent ruling has airport bosses worried.

"The reporter was clear that the airport shouldn’t receive compensation beyond the cost of immediate measures to mitigate the impact of a development.

"Given that past deals with wind farm companies appeared more generous and were based on a per megawatt arrangement rather than the cost of mitigation, if this ruling sets a precedent for future deals, that will eat into a lucrative income source for Prestwick.

"Post pandemic, we have seen passenger numbers creep back up at the airport but profit margins remain very tight, including a heavy reliance on US military refuelling, so any loss of income is something airport bosses are clearly very concerned about.

"With no likely buyer in sight, the precarious position exposes the lack of a long-term plan from the Scottish Government to get the airport into a position where profits are sustainable and enough to fund the significant investment needed to retain and grow the vital jobs at Prestwick.”

A Prestwick Airport spokesperson said: "This is a live public inquiry and as such we are unable to comment."



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