14.11.2012 - Understanding local demographics, and potential community benefits

Much has been written - mainly in objection to a whole series of planning applications - by residents of Ascog, on the southern fringes of Rothesay.

Once one starts to look at these objections, either to our current planning application for 3 wind turbines at Ascog Farm or earlier applications, for example proposing a nursing home nearby or a wind turbine at Toward Point, the same old names crop up.

Most object in terms of 'the view from my house will be ruined' or 'the value of my house will decrease'. A few have, with regard to wind turbines, even postulated ridiculous health scares - many of which are now seen in others' comments as a result of a campaign of misinformation that has recently been gathering pace.

Incredibly, it would seem, the Hon Secretary of the Rothesay Golf Club has based part of the Club's publicly stated opposition to the proposed development of wind turbines at Ascog Farm on the basis that:

Research has been carried out into the health issues associated with wind turbines and there is evidence to show that turbine infrasound and low frequency noise can cause disruption to the inner ear's vestibular system which can manifest itself in causing tachycardia and chest tightness amongst other symptoms. On health and safety grounds we would not wish our greens staff to be subjected to turbine infrasound on a daily basis. A significant number of our members fall into the senior category and they too could be at significant risk of suffering health problems for the reasons already listed. Having said that, all of our members could be at risk of suffering health problems.

So the myth of infrasound is used to suggest that tachycardia (an elevated heart rate once notoriously suffered by stressed out former Prime Minister Tony Blair) is going to kill off grounds staff and club members.

It hardly sounds plausible! Until you realise that many of the leading lights on the Rothesay Golf Club Committee come from the same milieux as Ascog's ardent objectors!

So what does this milieux look like?

Wealthy around Ascog, poor in Rothesay!

Our map, to a 2.5 mile radius around the farm at Ascog (courtesy of the excellent Stat-Nav service created and provided by my old business partner and friend Mark Watson at BlueWave Geographics), shows postcodes colour-coded by a wealth indicator ('LOCALE').

It will come as no surprise to anyone living on Bute that the red and orange dots - representing wealthy areas - are concentrated along the shores of Millbank and Ascog (home to many a turbine objector!) whilst the less affluent blue and black dots are found in Rothesay (where many of the recipients of the substantial community benefit fund we plan with Towards Zero Carbon Bute - if the turbines are consented - actually live).

Digging a little deeper into the 2001 Census data that goes into the production of the area classification (contact markwatson[at]bluewavegeographics[dot]com if you would like more details of this or his other products) reveals further interesting facts about the population and households within this 2.5 mile radius.

All demographic reports are prepared against a 'Base' of Argyll & Bute. In other words, we compare - for example - the percentage of males within the 2.5 mile radius against the percentage of males found in Argyll & Bute as a whole. If there are more males (or three car owning households etc) than expected ('above index') the bar graph is coloured blue. If there are fewer it is coloured red.

Ready? Off we go...

More elderly people (65+) and households in Social Rented housing than in Argyll & Bute

More Not Working and in lower Social Grades than Argyll & Bute (very few ethnic minorities; bar graph for Chinese exagerrated by dividing one very small number by another)

More in lower Social Grades and in 'Lower Supervisory', 'Semi Routine' or 'Routine' occupations; more 'Never Worked' or 'Long Term Unemployed' than Argyll & Bute

More with 'No Car' than Argyll & Bute; fewer than expected with 1, 2 or 3 cars; more in lowest (ie. poorest) Locale 'wealth indicator' quintile; fewer than expected in wealthier quintiles

More men and women either 'Unemployed' or 'Economically Inactive' when compared to Argyll & Bute

More 35-39 'Not Working' than in Argyll & Bute

Very few ethnic minorities (both within the radius and in the whole of Argyll & Bute, hence exagerrated bar graphs)

Fewer with a mortgage or shared ownership than Argyll & Bute; more in social housing; many more living in flats

Many 1-person households

Above average on 'Settled in the City' and general 'Countryside' geodemographics; below average preponderence of 'Prospering' categories

Above average numbers of households 'Constrained by Circumstances'

So, it doesn't make particularly pleasant reading...

Yes the data is old now (data from the 2011 Census should finally be released this year) and things might have improved a bit but overall this description of the 2.5 mile radius around Ascog Farm rings true. And remember, the base for comparison of all these demographic traits is Argyll & Bute itself - which is far and away from being the wealthiest local authority in the UK and is generally below UK average wealth levels!

Looking more widely these patterns can be seen in a map produced for a 10 mile radius:

Wealthy around the shoreline, poor in Rothesay, Dunoon and parts of Largs!

So what can we do about it? Complain that the view out of our window is ruined whenever there is an application for change, or ask the Council for money when they expect to cut their budget by £6 million a year for the next seven years?

Instead of whinging on or trying to get beleaguered local authorities to bail us out why not make the most of the natural resources around us - including bucket-loads of wind! - share the revenue from electricity generation and sale (without risk to the community, we will be the ones taking out the £3 million+ loan we'll need if we're allowed to get anything built) and have a local organisation spend that money, quite probably creating jobs in the process, to help out the poorer sections of the community in Rothesay who live in crumbling, poorly insulated flats.

Sounds like a plan? Probably only if you dare look out of your window...

Please support the planning application for wind turbines at Ascog Farm!