Thumbs down for GSK’s turbine plans

GLAXOSMITHKLINE’S wind turbine scheme has been sent back to the drawing board after councillors voted 9-2 against the proposals on Tuesday.

The decision by members of Angus Council’s development standards committee followed recommendations for refusal by infrastructure services director Eric Lowson.

In his report, Mr Lowson said the 426-feet high structures at the company’s Cobden Street factory contravene planning policy. In particular he highlighted the wider “significant adverse landscape and visual impacts” the turbines would have as well as “significant adverse visual and noise impacts” on nearby residents.

The company has said previously that the £8 million turbines will help to make the Montrose plant carbon neutral by 2014, part of a company-wide carbon reduction programme which has the ultimate aim of cutting the organisation’s carbon footprint by 25 per cent by 2020 and completely by 2050, and viable for the future.

Site director Andy Ross told the meeting that the turbines were important in underpinning the facilities GSK currently has in Montrose. He pointed out that the company had poured £90 million pounds into the Montrose plant over the last six years with a further commitment of £50 million, £10 million of which had been dedicated to renewable energy projects.

Mr Ross also said the believes there is potential to double the amount of business at GSK Montrose and the turbines were a key part of that strategy.

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.

The plans also attracted some vocal opposition from the public and 363 objections were lodged with the council, as well as a 254-signature petition, 16 letters of support and one neither supporting nor objecting.

After the meeting a GSK spokesman said: “Naturally we’re disappointed with the outcome of the planning application. The next step will be for Angus Council to formally write to GSK telling them of the refusal and formally noting their reasons.

“We’ll await that report from the council and once we’ve had time to consider its implications, we’ll review whether we will appeal or not.”

Local Councillor and committee member Bill Duff said a “very difficult” decision had to be taken, balancing the interests of a major employer against the views of nearby residents, amenity groups and planning officials.

He said: “Having rejected the scheme to install two large turbines at the GSK plant, I very much hope that GSK take up Mr Lowson’s offer and enter into a dialogue with Angus Council’s planning department to achieve a result that meets the company’s desire to use renewable energy and reduce their energy costs and meet the concerns expressed by the planners in the report considered today.

“GSK has been a hugely positive influence on Montrose and Angus over the last 60 years, offering good quality employment and injecting many millions into the local economy. I very much hope that we can work together to satisfy the company’s needs to keep the Montrose factory competitive, whilst satisfying the concerns of neighbours.”