GSK Wind Turbines in Scotland Are Unpopular With Locals

GSK Wind Turbines in Scotland Are Unpopular With Locals

August 31st, 2012 // 3:42 pm @


For the past two years, GlaxoSmithKline has worked hard to convince the town of Montrose, Scotland, that constructing a pair of 426-feet high wind turbines is a good idea. Why? The move would lower electrical use on its 45-acre site, which is used to make active pharmaceutical ingredients and, consequently, contribute to cost savings that would prevent the facility from eventually being shuttered. The drugmaker (GSK) actually intended to close the plant in 2006.

But the notion feels like so much hot air to some residents. The Angus Council development standards committee rejected the turbines in the belief these would have a negative impact on the landscape, environment and town skyline, according to The Courier. In fact, the paper notes the turbines would be almost twice the size of the church spire in the town, which is described as the most prominent feature in Montrose.

Local infrastructure services director Eric Lowson wrote in a report last week that, while he recognizes “the benefit of producing electricity by renewable means, particularly where this would increase the viability of a major local employer… I do not consider there is anything in government policy that suggests this should be at the expense of other environmental considerations or the amenity of those that live nearby,” according to The Montrose Review.

The turbines, which would cost about $15 million, are part of an ‘environmental responsibility’ strategy the drugmaker has espoused (see page 85). And Montrose was among several locations across the UK where the drugmaker last March pledged to invest nearly $800 million, including $160 million for manufacturing in Scotland, after the UK Parliament lowered corporate tax rates (see this and this).

In remarks to the committee, Glaxo site manager Andy Ross used rather plain language to underscore the value the plant has to the local economy. “The turbines will help make the site more attractive environmentally and commercially and underpin the 270 members of staff,” he said, according to The Courier. “The site’s overall economic benefit to the town is about $40 million in salaries and spending with local contractors and $80 million has recently been committed for a new facility for a new product to Montrose. It will help us double the size of the business over the next five to six years and I ask you to approve the application, given the economic significance of the factory to the town.”

Just the same, council member David May voted against the turbines. “I have complete support for their aim of carbon reduction, and I would encourage more businesses to do this,” he said, according to The Courier. “I know from speaking to people round the town there’s great support for the turbines and a large number of people are unconcerned as long as it keeps jobs in the town. However, I am very concerned about the skyline, landscape and the setting. It would dominate the skyline. I feel I have no choice but to support the officer’s call and recommend to refuse the application.

We asked Glaxo for comment and will update you accordingly. [UPDATE: A Glaxo spokeswoman writes us this: “The refusal won’t impact the company’s plans to invest in a vaccine adjuvants plant which will cost in the region of £25 million (about $40 million)… The turbines refusal, per se, doesn’t affect any current prospects for Montrose. However, other GSK sites either have installed wind turbines, or have planning permission for them, which enhances their competitiveness, which was one of the objectives Montrose had in seeking to install turbines.]

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