New 200-metre-high wind turbines get the go-ahead

Tuesday May 4th 2021


Part of the existing Crystal Rig Wind Farm. Fred. Olsen Renewables

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

New 200-metre-high wind turbines have been given the go-ahead, despite objections, after Scottish Ministers agreed it would take an impact of “overwhelming importance” to stop them.

The new turbines in the Lammermuir Hills sparked concern from East Lothian Council after they included plans to put red aviation lights at the top.

The local authority argued they would be as visible as the giant cranes at the St James Centre in Edinburgh city centre were across the county.

And other objectors likened the towering turbines to “the towers of the new Queensferry crossing”.

Even the Ministry of Defence raised concerns they would interfere with operations.

However, in a report approved by Scottish Ministers following an appeal by windfarm operators Fred. Olsen Renewables, their Reporters ruled none of the objections were strong enough to support refusing planning permission for the turbines.

The operators had argued that the case for renewable energy outweighed concerns over the giant turbines.

They said: “The need case for renewable energy development is greater than ever before. Consequently, it would take a local impact of overwhelming importance to justify a refusal of consent, and there is none.”

East Lothian Council objected to plans to extend the Crystal Rig windfarm project, which straddles its border with the Scottish Borders, over plans to put red lights on top of them to meet Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

They said: “The Lammermuirs form the backdrop to East Lothian. The skyline, especially where unbroken, characterises East Lothian.

“The area is characterised by a lack of lighting, creating the perception of an undeveloped area at night.”

Objecting to the need to put aviation lights on the new turbines because of their height, the council said: “A good example for red lighting when views from East Lothian are the lights on the cranes at the St James Centre. These show how clearly red light travels and that the intensity of the light and weather conditions makes little difference to the distance it can be viewed at. The lighting here is easily visible from the Garleton Hills, a similar distance as the proposed Crystal Rig turbines are from Tranent.”

Representatives from Mayshiel and Cranshaws Estates also lodged objections, saying the inclusion of 200-metre-high turbines in the latest plans should be very carefully considered.

Comparing them to the height of the Queensferry Crossing towers, they said: “It is a stalking horse prelude to the proposed re-powering of the early phases of Crystal Rig with turbines of this height.”

The proposals for Crystal Rig IV will see a further 11 wind turbines placed in the Lammermuir Hills.

The latest phase of the Crystal Rig project will take the number of turbines on the site to more than 100.

The Reporters said of the lighting concerns: “We find that very few people would be affected by visibility of the lights to a significant degree, including those living in the small number of residential properties located within, or just beyond, three kilometres of the application site.”

And they dismissed claims by East Lothian Council that “a memory of a familiar view should be taken into account in an assessment of landscape impact”.

They concluded: “We are satisfied that the applicant has had regard to the potential significant effects of the proposed development.

“We have considered the responses and found no grounds on which to disagree with [the applicants’] assessments of the application.”

Scottish Ministers issued consent for the turbines.

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