A radiation risk standing in the way of a multi-million pound Angus solar farm has been dismissed as “pretty remote” by Angus councillors who have cleared the former airfield development for take-off.
Almost three years ago, planning permission was granted for the 31MW solar park on a site covering more than 50 hectares of the former Tealing airfield.
The proposal involves the siting of in excess of 120,000 CCTV-protected solar panels, with 15 housing units, built around a site currently given over to farmland.
However, the development has not gone ahead and with potentially deal-breaking subsidy support under threat, the applicant returned to Angus Council to seek the removal of a security fence condition which they said could scupper the whole project.
Under the previously consented approval, the entire site had to be fenced to reduce as far as possible the risk or anyone being exposed to radium 226 which might exist as a result of the site’s wartime RAF role.
The radioactive material was used to create luminous markings on items such as aircraft cockpit instruments and planning officials had flagged up the issue in a report considered by development standards committee members after the applicant asked for the fence condition to be dropped.
Councillors heard a grid connection had been agreed in principle, but it could not be achieved within the original timescale, and a UK government decision to remove subsidy support for standalone solar projects has had an additional impact on the project’s viability.
“The developer highlights that whilst the irradiance levels in Angus are among the best in Scotland, the project cannot compete with similar developments in the southern part of the UK and without subsidy support, the project can only become viable if capital cost reductions are achieved,” said an official report.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency had not objected to the removal of the fence and Arbroath councillor Alex King said he believed the chances of anyone on the site being exposed to radium 226 were very slim.
“If it is anything like other airfields such as Condor, old aircraft were put in a specific dumping area and instruments were very often removed.
“There is no evidence of an aircraft dump here and I would think that the chances of coming across items containing radium 226 are pretty remote.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t remove this condition to allow this development to go ahead, and if any items are found that could be dealt with by a condition saying that appropriate measures should be taken.”