14.12.2012 - Michael Russell MSP surprised by 'personal abuse' in wind farm debate

Not such a busy week in The Buteman this week with (count them!) zero letters on the subject of wind energy.

There is, however, an article regarding Bute's constituency MSP Michael Russell who is placing his trust in the planning system (as one would expect) to determine the course of the planning application for 3 wind turbines at Ascog Farm.

©The Buteman

In addition to covering Mr Russell's view the paper reports that 'Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH] has also now objected to the application'. This is slightly wide of the mark. SNH have not, in fact, 'objected' to the application, instead stating that 'given the overall scale of the turbines and the proposed siting of the same, it is our advice that this development would not be appropriate in this sensitive location'. SNH rarely object outright to planning applications and have not done so in this case, instead they offer 'advice'.

Elsewhere in their response to Argyll & Bute Council planners SNH state they have no objections to the scheme from a Nature Conservation/Protected Species perspective provided the mitigation measures mentioned in the Environmental Statement (2.9MB PDF) are adhered to.

It is up to Argyll & Bute Council and/or Scottish Ministers to determine to what extent the SNH advice is relied upon. One would expect Argyll & Bute Council to rely on it completely since they themselves commissioned SNH to undertake a Landscape wind energy capacity study which inter alia appears to suggest there are hardly any areas (excluding Kintyre) in the whole of Argyll & Bute (Scotland's second largest local authority by land area!) that could take a turbine even in the 35-50m tip height range.

This study was published in March 2012. No mention of it was made during our Scoping Request/Opinion with the Council conducted November 2010 to January 2011 or at the time when the 50m high - i.e. tall - meteorological mast was granted planning permission in September 2011; even though the study or write-up must have been ongoing at that time.

Given that Argyll & Bute is one of the windiest parts of Scotland (and indeed the UK and Western Europe), that turbines are visible from many locations on the ferry to and from Bute (and from locations on Bute including Ascog itself) and that our plans are in line with the Scottish Government's objective of generating 500mW of 'local or community owned' power generating capacity by 2020 the Scottish Ministers may take a different view of the SNH 'advice'.

It may be, that in the time it has taken to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment, sands have shifted within Argyll & Bute Council and their earlier professed enthusiam for renewable energy generation has waned.

Certainly there would appear to be some massive internal inconsistencies. Argyll & Bute Council's own web page currently sings the praises of community benefit onshore windfarms and features a view of three turbines not so massively different to that which would be visible offshore from Bute if the things were consented at Ascog Farm!

Looks nice in the pictures!
© Argyll & Bute Council

Time will tell, but the decision is bound to be political!