Turbines appeal lodged

GSK Montrose: 'No alternatives came close.'
GSK Montrose: 'No alternatives came close.'

AN APPEAL has been lodged against Angus Council’s refusal of Glaxosmithkline’s (GSK) plans to site two 426-feet high wind turbines at its Montrose factory.

The company has maintained that, despite discussing alternative renewables schemes with the local authority, the 2.5 megawatt turbines remain the best option for the company to meet its aims of generating all its electricity on site. It has also claimed that the £8 million project would enhance “its prospects of winning further investment”.

In a statement this week, however, the company conceded that it would be prepared to consider lowering the height of the turbines to reduce their visual impact, as stated in its original planning application.

Members of the development standards committee voted 9-2 against the proposal at their meeting in August on the grounds of noise and the structures’ visual impact on the townscape. At the time infrastructure services convener Eric Lowson said council officers would be willing to discuss alternative schemes with “reduced impacts”.

To make its case to the Scottish Government reporter overseeing the appeal, the company intends to argue that the project’s socioeconomic benefits outweigh the turbines’ appearance.

A GSK spokesman said: “The council brought a number of suggestions to the table, including whether it might be feasible to import waste to the site to burn to produce power. However, no alternatives came close to the viability of two 2.5 MW wind turbines in meeting the site’s objectives.

“GSK Montrose is the largest private sector employee in Angus, contributing around seven per cent of the county’s annual Gross Value Added. It is calculated that the site contributes around £33 million to the Scottish economy each year, playing a major role in both regional and national economic activity.

“Erecting the turbines would increase the site’s competitiveness and help realise its ambition of significantly increasing the volume of products made at Montrose.”

He added that the turbines offer a “tremendous opportunity” for the Montrose factory, which makes active ingredients for a number of GSK products and is the company’s sole supplier of several, to “enhance its sustainability”.

The company has also said that it was confident it could mitigate the noise concerns the council had raised and it was recognised throughout the consultation and planning process that the turbines would be visible.

GSK has said that in carefully considering whether to appeal it had received considerable support and encouragement from local people to pursue the scheme but the plans also attracted some vocal opposition. One of the most contentious planning issues in Montrose for years, 363 objections were lodged with the council as well as a 254-signature petition along with 16 letters of support and the establishment of the No Way GSK campaign against the scheme.

Opponents were this week angry that the company has chosen to appeal the committee’s decision with some claiming that by taking the line on potential economic benefits to the town, GSK is holding the community to ransom.

In a post on the No Way GSK website, Ray Gibson said: “There’s a whiff of blackmail in the air about this appeal. We must fight.”

Another comment, from “Sancho”, claims that the council’s case for refusal was “so comprehensive, closely argued and clearly set out as to be virtually void of any possible grounds for appeal”.

It continues: “Which is why GSK have attempted to base their appeal on hyping up the ‘socioeconomic’ aspects of the scheme. This aspect of the original application was considered by the planners, but dismissed as not being relevant. GSK’s claim that the scheme ‘chimes with the Scottish Governments policy re renewable energy etc, may well be true but because it is not relevant, it does not influence the outcome.”