Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Plans for a giant new windfarm near St Andrews will wreck its iconic setting and damage tourism, the Old Course Hotel and Resort has warned.
St Andrews University has applied to build a six-turbine wind farm at Kenly between Boarhills and Dunino, just a few miles from the historic town centre. Town and gown, or golf and gown, are set on a collision course with The Old Course formally objecting to the University’s plans. The money-spinning turbine project comes just as the University is about to start charging English students £36,000 for its degree courses.
Turbines are bad for business, especially if your business is one of the world’s top golf resorts. In a strongly-worded letter to Fife Council’s Planning Department on behalf of The Old Course, independent consultants Colliers International warn that the 100-metre-high turbines at Kenly would have “detrimental visual and economic impacts on existing established visitor-related land uses”.
Dismissing the claim in the University’s “Environmental Statement” that the impact on tourism would be negligible, it says the University’s analysis is patchy and unpersuasive.
“Given the seamless hospitality experience on offer to worldwide visitors and local residents to the St Andrews Old Course Hotel and Resort, it is considered the proposals will have a detrimental visual impact upon visitors to the Duke’s Golf Club, upon residents of the Hamilton Grand… and upon the wider visual experience of visitors to St Andrews.”
Since 2004, when the private US company Kohler Co. acquired the Old Course Hotel, it has poured millions into upgrading and extending the facilities into a comprehensive golf resort.
It is currently transforming the world-renowned Hamilton Hall overlooking the Old Course into the Hamilton Grand, a resort development of 26 luxury private residences. If the university wind farm goes ahead, Hamilton Hall residents will enjoy a clear view of the turbines from the upper floors and communal rooftop terrace.
Colliers notes that this will undermine amenity for all the building’s future occupants. The wind farm is incompatible “with the Scottish Government and Fife Council’s objectives for continued successful growth of the tourism economy in St Andrews and Fife.”
Colliers says that a skyline brimming with turbines will put off tourists. Would-be visitors from across the world may go elsewhere when they see the turbines in the panorama shots that often feature in TV broadcasts of golfing tournaments.
Other golf courses and hotels in and around St Andrews will also suffer. Fairmont St Andrews is barely a mile from the proposed windfarm, and famous links courses east of St Andrews such as Kingsbarns will also be overshadowed by the turbines.
Colliers fears the University windfarm will hit local jobs. It argues that wind farms’ much-hyped job creation is negligible when set against the potential harm to jobs in the local tourist and leisure economy.
“The Old Course Hotel and resort should also not be underestimated in terms of its significance as a major resource to the Fife and Scottish economy. It is one of St Andrews’ highest employers (circa 300 jobs) and its relevance to the continued growth of the Fife economy is a key material consideration”.
The Old Course objection, which was formally lodged with Fife Council’s Planning Department last week, details how the University windfarm application contravenes no fewer than six different development plan policies – on wind turbines, green belts, built environment, skyline, listed buildings and tourism.
Colliers highlight Scottish Natural Heritage’s worries that even at a distance of 10 km the blade movement remains clearly visible and prominent. Fife Planners have also criticised the excessive height of the proposed turbines as unacceptable. The University has yet to make a formal response.
From industrial-scale wind farms to back-garden turbines, Fife is facing a torrent of applications. Fife Council’s Planning Department is currently looking at hundreds of proposals.
Wales-based developers West Coast Energy have just lodged an application for five 100-metre turbines on high ground at Lingo, 3 miles south of St Andrews. These will be even more visible from the surrounding countryside than the university ones because they are on higher ground.
Local campaigners against turbines welcomed the Old Course objection. Graham Lang of the East Fife Turbine Awareness Group (EFTAG) said: “The Old Course Hotel shares our concern about cumulative impacts of turbines in East Fife. There are numerous other turbine proposals which will affect the wider setting of St Andrews which need to be assessed in relation to the University wind farm and provided as additional information to Fife Council”.
A spokesman for Kenly Landscape Protection Group (KLPG), set up by the communities at and adjacent to Kenly said: “Many individuals and businesses have been cautious about speaking out. The University of St Andrews is an important employer and source of business in the area. In the luxury golf resort business confidence is key, and major stakeholders have understandably shied away from drawing attention to the turbine danger here as the mere proposal for a wind farm next to St Andrews is on the table can hurt confidence.
But, like Donald Trump, the owners of the Old Course know that the reality of a wind farm on the door step of the home of golf spells disaster if you are vying to be the world’s top golfing destination.”



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