Councillor Tommy Cochrane
A Shotts councillor has hit out after North Lanarkshire Council rejected a planning application for a single wind turbine in Springhill.
Fortissat’s SNP representative Tommy Cochrane said last week’s decision to veto the project on the grounds of its “detrimental visual impact” was “completely absurd.”
The application is the first of four wind turbine projects to be decided by the planning and transportation committee in the coming weeks, which could see the total number of turbines on the landscape rise to around 100.
Now Councillor Cochrane fears these larger applications will also be refused – resulting, he claims, in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of potential lost revenue to the community.
He fumed: “For this application to be knocked back like this is ridiculous.
“There are already numerous turbines across the area, what difference is another one going to make?
“The site which was proposed is right next to two bings, hardly an area of outstanding natural beauty.
“I hope this isn’t a dangerous precedent being set, especially with other turbine projects about to be voted on.
“I’m extremely pro-wind turbines and renewable energy, as we cannot continue pumping carbon dioxide into the environment.
“Like it or not because of the height of where it’s situated, Shotts and the surrounding area is a prime location to maximise this source of energy and it could help bring much-needed investment to a community that’s, frankly, on its knees.
“It’s not as though we live in an area of natural beauty. Shotts is a proud part of the industrial belt of this country.
“It’s like saying a hundred years ago ‘there’s lots of coal under the ground here – but you can’t mine it because you might not like the look of the bings it creates’.”
By Councillor Cochrane’s reckoning, approval for all the projects could generate in excess of £200,000.
The Milton Keynes-based applicant hadn’t offered any financial benefit to the community but had committed to implement a bog restoration scheme.
However, Councillor Cochrane’s fellow Fortissat representative Charlie Cefferty was against the proposal.
The independent councillor sent a letter of objection, stating his concerns about the impact on the environment and community.
Councillor Cefferty told the Wishaw Press this week: “Firstly, let me say that I’m as passionate as anyone about improving the local community.
“However, I think Councillor Cochrane is mistaken if he thinks that the installation of more than 100 turbines would automatically result in a cash windfall for the area.
“Any form of community benefit is completely at the discretion of the developer and is neither a guaranteed contribution or mandatory requirement.
“Even if it was enforceable, then the caveat is the money would be North Lanarkshire Council’s and still may not automatically find its way to the Fortissat community which would house the turbines.
“In addition to this, it’s important to note that community benefit is not a material consideration when planning applications are being measured by North Lanarkshire Council, or any other for that matter.”
Councillor Cefferty added: “I’ve never had anyone come to one of my surgeries and say ‘lets put up some wind turbines’, it just doesn’t happen.
“People do not want to look out their windows and see them.
“However, should developments be granted and afterwards a community benefit contribution secured, then I want to set up community trusts in each settlement of Fortissat, Dykehead, Springhill, Allanton, Salsburgh, Hartwood and Eastfield and Harthill.
“This is to ensure any benefit received will be spent in the areas most affected by the wind turbines and then spread proportionally.
“This will prevent dividing communities over arguments about money.
“Councillor Cochrane is aware of this.”
Walter Dickson, secretary of Harthill and Eastfield Community Council, added: “This particular application did not comply with planning regulations and the local development plan.
“The community council’s understanding is that the application was recommended for refusal on two separate occasions by NLC planning officers (first in December 2012) on the grounds of negative visual impact and cumulative effect.
“After a site visit and a hearing in the civic centre last week, the recommendation of the planners was upheld by the full planning committee.
“The explanations as to why this application was rejected are available for everyone to read on the NLC planning website.”