Councillors ignore planning advice and approve Uist turbine plans

Councillors have ignored advice from their own planning officials and approved four wind turbine applications for the Uists.

On Tuesday, members of the Environment and Protective Services Committee voted to disregard recommendations by planning officials and grant planning permission despite objections to all four applications from the MoD.

The MoD objected on the basis that the wind turbines would cause interference to the Range Control Radars on South Uist and St Kilda and the Air Defence Radar at South Clettraval in North Uist.

Head of Development Services Keith Bray warned the move, which attracted majority committee support, would be ‘rather irresponsible as a planning authority’ and he wished to put that on the record.

The objections from the MoD have caused frustration across Uist for halting development in the islands.

The first was an application by the North Uist Development Company for two turbines at Locheport which was recommended for refusal but approved by councillors.

The second application was for a wind turbine near to the Dark Island Hotel at Liniclate, Benbecula. Again this was approved, despite a recommendation for refusal. An amendment from South Uist Cllr David Blaney (seven votes to three) meant planning permission was granted.

He pointed out that this turbine was close to an existing turbine at Linaclate School which the MoD had not objected to 25 years ago. Chair of the committee Cllr Kenneth Murray said the MoD objections were due to the ‘cumulative impact’ of many turbines which were no longer manageable.

Cllr Blaney said: “If the three turbines Storas Uibhist have were applied for now they would be objected to.”

Benbecula and North Uist councillor Neil Beaton added that it needed to be a ‘level playing field’ and that the opinion of experts who had made the case for this application and the North Uist Development Company had not been taken on board.

Mr Bray said that if councillors were minded to approve this application that he would strongly urge a noise assessment to be carried out as there had also been an environmental health concern about the project.

The third application considered was for a 15metre turbine at Bornish House, 11 Bornish, South Uist.

Despite a recommendation for refusal, it was approvedwhen an amendment by Cllr David Blaney was carried again seven votes to three.

A final application for an 18m wind turbine at 13 Bornish, South Uist was again approved after an amendment put forward gleaned enough support from members.

The applications could now be called in by the Scottish Government who may wish to look at the individual situations again and make a decision on the MoD objections.

The situation has been described as a ‘David and Goliath’ case with the council taking on the MoD.

Although the move attracted majority support, many councillors were uneasywith the move away from planning policies already in place which was necessary in order to approve the applications.

Chief Executive Malcolm Burr warned there must be a compelling reason to deviate from the policy.