Dulater Hill Wind Farm Inquiry
The inquiry for the Dulater Hill wind farm proposal (to the North east of Butterstone) took place from 28th-31st March and extended into the first week of April (as everyone was having so much fun!). The key participants were the developer (Ecotricity) and the objectors led by Perth and Kinross Council and Scottish Natural Heritage, the Community Councils (Roddy McInnes from Spittalfield and Stuart Paton from Dunkeld and Birnam), Scotways and Jeremy Scuse from Lunan Valley Protection Group. The inquiry was chaired, and very efficiently run, by the Reporter. The inquiry consisted of four types of session.
Possibly the biggest impact of the inquiry was the Tuesday evening public session which was very well attended. Nine local people gave short presentations on the key issues from their perspectives. These came across as powerful statements and generated very positive comment from nearly everybody.
Secondly, there were extremely detailed ‘inquiry sessions’ which considered specific points in relation to landscape and visual impact. These were the most intensive sessions and involved detailed cross examination of witnesses by barristers representing each side. The key debate was whether the planned turbines would have an unacceptable visual impact on the National Scenic Area around Dunkeld (SNH's & PKC's argument) and whether a further windfarm in the area would have an unacceptable cumulative visual impact on the area (PKC's argument) given the windfarms already operating, consented or applied for (ie Griffin, Drumderg, Calliacher, Crossburn).
Thirdly, there were more informal ‘hearing sessions’ covering such issues as impact on tourism, the A923, ecology, birdlife, and national planning and energy policies.
Essentially the differences between the two sides were not of fact but of professional opinion. As a result much stress was put on how two opposing experts, looking at the proposed turbines from the same vantage point, could describe the visual impact as "low impact" vs "dominant impact"; all in an attempt to measure "natural beauty" and the impact on it of a large scale power station.
Finally, the Reporter undertook a number of accompanied and unaccompanied site visits to the key locations impacted by the windfarm. On the visit with the Reporter to the A923 corner below the golf course, a logging lorry nearly drove a car off the road, highlighting the access problem, as did the realisation that the works proposed to widen the road there would almost certainly shut the A923 from Forneth to Dunkeld for up to 6 months.
The Reporter now has a mass of information to collate, to balance and marshal to support her recommendation to Scottish government ministers. Due to the number of ongoing inquiries (not all windfarms) there is pressure on Reporters to put in their reports as quickly as possible but this can still take up to 3 months. Ministers have taken between 3 and 5 months to respond so we could be looking at October to December for a final decision.
Finally, a big well done to everyone that has been involved over the last few years in whatever capacity. It is now time to cross fingers and hope that common sense will prevail.
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