Councillors back windfarm substation despite objections

Wednesday December 6th 2023

berwick-bank-offshore-windfarm


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Plans to build 21-metre high buildings to handle offshore energy in rural East Lothian have been approved by councillors despite concerns over a lack of a masterplan for the area from local communities.

The proposals by SSE Renewables could see one of the world’s biggest windfarms bring energy onto land near Skateraw, on the east of the county coastline.

Their plans to create a substation or converter station near Innerwick in the county’s Lammermuirs include running cables across just under 600 hectares of land between Skateraw at the coast and Branxton.

The proposals are already expected to face a public inquiry by Scottish Ministers next year over the energy firm’s bid to issue Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs)on owners of land involved.

The operators of Torness Nuclear Power Station, Network Rail, Scottish Powers and private land owners, all object to the CPOs.

However calls for the planning application in principle for the work to also face a public inquiry were today rejected by councillors on East Lothian Council’s planning committee.

It heard objections from three community council’s representing local residents across the area who argued that planners could not consider the application without taking into account other planned projects for the area.

It was claimed the building proposed would be 21-metres high and visible from Innerwick.

The council was accused of allowing a ‘piecemeal’ approach to renewable development in the countryside with claims another ten projects were already in the pipeline for the area.

Planning committee convenor Councillor Norman Hampshire told the meeting members could only consider the cumulative effect of projects which were in place not those which might come in the future urging fellow members to vote on the application on its own merit.

Councillor Shona McIntosh urged SSE Renewables to look into ways that a heat recovery system could be used to harness some of the power from the new facility for local residents.

She pointed out there were around 150 homes in the village of Innerwick, many of whom relied on oil and were in fuel poverty.

She said: “This is going to make huge profits and yet there will be a community living in fuel poverty next to it.”

A spokesperson for SSE Renewables said it was investigating whether it was feasible to introduce a network.

Ward member Councillor Lyn Jardine, who is not on the planning committee urged members to reject the plans saying the concern among local communities was “absolutely palpable” and Councillor Jeremy Findlay told the committee he would refuse to back the proposal in the hope it would go “further up the food chain” – in a reference to an appeal to Scottish Ministers.

However Mr Hampshire told members they had a duty to determine the proposal and if it were refused and later approved on appeal they would ‘lose control’ of it in the future.

The committee voted by nine votes to one to grant planning permission in principle.

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