A REQUEST for councillors to decide on the fate of a wind farm planning application has been denied.

Councillors Jean McClung, Tony Gurney and Jim Montgomerie wanted the full planning committee to determine the Sorbie Farm application instead of council officers.

Councillor McClung said: “North Ayrshire Council declared a climate emergency which means we really do have to reduce carbon substantially.

“One of the way to do this is to have more renewable energy produced in a safe, clean way.

“I find it astonishing that an application for a renewable source of energy would be turned down in these circumstances.”

The application, to increase the height of three wind turbines which were previously granted planning permission, will now be determined by officers.

Members of both Saltcoats and Stevenston Community Councils want the plans to go ahead, citing a community fund as a motivator.

Kyle Haddow, of Saltcoats Community Council, said: “As it stands it has been refused on two occasions with no real reason other than political differences instead of remaining impartial.

“Saltcoats would have benefitted from an annual community development fund of £20k which would help us address the locality priorities for economy, regeneration and communication.”

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “It has always been the case, both in Scottish Government Planning Guidance and North Ayrshire practice, that community benefits can never be a factor which can be considered in determining a planning application.

“The Supreme Court recently confirmed that such benefits ‘constituted a method of seeking to buy the permission sought, in breach of the principle that planning permission cannot be bought or sold.’

Michael Briggs, project manager with planning applicant Energiekontor UK, said: “We are disappointed the planning committee has refused a Call In Request by local councillors to determine our proposed Sorbie Wind Farm at the next available meeting.

“The decision will add more uncertainty and delay for the community who badly want to see this development come forward.

“If consented, the project will provide significant investment both regionally and nationally with a total investment of more than £14.5 million. This includes contracts worth around £3 million in North Ayrshire and £6.1 million in Scotland as a whole.

“The project is vital to supporting a local dairy farm at Sorbie which would be able to expand their milking herd from 370 cows to 500 and build a new state of the art dairy facility. Sorbie Farm currently has three full-time and one part-time employee. If approved, the business will be in a position to put the part-time employee through a full-time apprenticeship scheme.

“The community benefit associated with the project would equate to £60,000 per annum over the 25-year lifetime of the project. The beneficiaries of this are the communities of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston. The application has attracted an overwhelming level of support from the community with 112 letters of support including from Stevenston Community Council.

“Now that the application has been returned to council officers to determine, we await the decision in due course.”

Councillor McClung said: “I am very disappointed. I find it ironic after a climate emergency has been announced but I hope it will eventually be approved.

“Previously, applications for wind farms were turned down or approved on the basis of visual impact, but this one has taken that into account.

“Climate change should supersede any other consideration.

“More jobs will be created in North Ayrshire as a whole.”

Ian Miller, a North Ayrshire resident who wrote a letter of objection to the proposals, said: "Climate  Emergency or not, the Scottish Government and NAC Planning who commissioned the Windfarm Capacity Study and the Local Development Plan with the assistance of landscape architects at considerable expense, cannot allow their set parameters to be simply trampled on by some philistine developer who, rather obviously, simply wishes to overturn the result of the previous local review body’s fairly conducted hearing."