Refusal recommended for GSK turbines

REFUSAL has been recommended for GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) application for two 426-feet high wind turbines when the application goes before Angus councillors next week.

In an extensive 45-page report due to be considered by the authority’s development standards committee on Tuesday, infrastructure services director Eric Lowson said the proposals to site the turbines at the company’s Cobden Street factory contravene planning policy. In particular he highlighted the “significant adverse landscape and visual impacts” the turbines would have as well as “significant adverse visual and noise impacts” on nearby residents.

He said: “These impacts are considered unacceptable and in this respect the proposed development would be contrary to development plan policy.”

Objections were lodged by both Historic Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust on the grounds that the development would have an adverse impact on and “overwhelm” the Old and St Andrew’s Church steeple, which is a “defining” characteristic of the town, although Historic Scotland said this could be mitigated by erecting “substantially” smaller turbines.

There were also 363 objections lodged by members of the public, as well as a 254-signature petition, 16 letters of support and one neither supporting nor objecting.

The company has said the turbines will help to make the Montrose plant carbon neutral by 2014. The scheme is part of a general carbon reduction programme being driven by Andrew Witty, GSK’s chief executive officer. The aim is to cut the wider company’s carbon footprint by 25 per cent by 2020 and completely by 2050.

Although the Montrose site already has initiatives in place to reduce its energy use, including more efficient machinery and its own low carbon combined heat process plant (CHP), a combination of wind and marine-generated power would slash carbon emissions by more than 75 per cent.

It has also said the £8 million project is important to the site’s viability over the next 25 years.

Mr Lowson said that although he is “very conscious” of the company’s status as an employer in the area and sympathetic to its carbon reduction aims, there are “no material considerations that justify approval of the application contrary to the provisions of the development plan.”

He said: “I recognise the benefit of producing electricity by renewable means, particularly where this would increase the viability of a major local employer, but I do not consider there is anything in government policy that suggests this should be at the expense of other environmental considerations or the amenity of those that live nearby.

“In the particular circumstances of this case, I do not consider that the environment or economic benefit of the production of renewable energy outweighs the very direct harm that this proposal would cause to the amenity of occupants of nearby residential property or to the wider landscape and built heritage of the town.”

While it is open to councillors to go against Mr Lowson’s recommendations, he pointed out that reasons for doing so will have to be specified.

A GSK spokesman told the Review: “GSK Montrose is disappointed that the director of infrastructure services has recommended that the planning application should be refused but will wait to see how the development standards committee determines the application, given that its members may vote to accept the proposals.”

More on this story in next edition of The Review.