Mixed response to GSK proposals

the LONG-TERM “economic competitiveness” of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Montrose will be supported by the addition of wind turbines to its local factory, the site’s director has said.

Addressing a public meeting in Montrose Academy on Thursday night, Andrew Ross told the audience of over 100 that the “green credentials” the project would bring to the factory would help it stand out both globally and within the company itself.

The meeting was organised by Montrose Community Council to give the public a say on the company’s scheme to site two 426-metre high turbines at the Cobden Street facility, and to allow it to gauge opinion and formulate a formal response to GSK’s planning application, which was submitted to Angus Council in December.

Dr Ross outlined GSK’s wider aims of becoming completely carbon neutral worldwide by 2050 and its strict targets of reducing its carbon footprint by 10 per cent over the next two years and by 25 per cent by 2025 as well as cutting overheads.

He said: “It has been quite a difficult decade in the history of the factory and we now find ourselves competing on a global basis. Staying green is one way to differentiate the factory in Montrose and stay competitive. The turbines will support the long-term economic competitiveness of the factory in terms of competing with low cost countries but other also with other factories around GSK.”

Addressing the details of the wind turbine scheme and some of the questions arising from it, Ian Morrow, the site’s renewable energy manager, said Montrose could be the company’s first site to achieve that status.

He said the turbines would cut carbon dioxide production by 65 per cent and without them the factory would not have “as good a strategy”.

Mr Morrow continued: “The argument against them is that they only generate energy when the wind blows, but we’re looking at energy storage which means that probably for the first time in Scotland they will generate electricity when they’re not working.”

Professor Robert Yacamini challenged the technology, saying the turbines need not be on site as electricity could be generated elsewhere and still be used by the company. He also said that storage facilities of the size required “do not exist”, although Mr Morrow said GSK is considering a number of options.

Several audience members also raised concerns over the structures’ visual impact on the town’s historic skyline.

Montrose Society chairman Sandy Munro said: “Given the site is next to one of the most historic towns in Scotland, what about some cross-generation with other GSK sites? If your site was at the Fountainhead Brewery in Edinburgh and you applied to do this, it wouldn’t have a chance.

“What GSK is seeking to achieve is wonderful, it’s just a question of why they (the turbines) have to be there.”

One resident who moved to Montrose recently also questioned recent protests against the scheme from Ferryden residents.

She said: “People have been looking at the site from Ferryden for years. What difference will two wind turbines make?”

A village resident said the factory “isn’t as tall” as the turbines would be.

She said: “Glaxo’s not the bonniest site but it doesn’t tower above our back door like these turbines are going to.”

Montrose resident Dave Coates also said he doubted if the project was right for the town.

He said: “I came here with an open mind hoping to be convinced it was the right move for Montrose. I think it’s the right move for Glaxo but not really for me.

“Benefits to Montrose were mentioned, but I don’t see where they’ll come from. It sounded like a veiled threat that if you don’t get the turbines then the plant will reduce in size.”

The community council will discuss at its meeting tonight (Thursday) the views expressed and submit a response to Angus Council’s consultation on the planning application, which is expected to go before the authority’s developments standards committee in May.