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The continuing spread of wind farms across South Knapdale and Kintyre should be paused to allow their broad impact to be assessed, community councils have said.
In a joint letter to Scottish Government ministers with responsibility for transport, electricity transmission, rural economy and tourism, South Knapdale and Tarbert and Skipness community councils joined forces with their five Kintyre equivalents to express concern at the pace and size of wind farm developments on valuable landscapes.
They also claim that some wind farm developers have recently ignored Scottish Government advice on providing community benefits – cash for local organisations – and shared community ownership.
The seven-strong group of community councils has asked Scottish ministers to delay further wind farm development while a study of their impact on the Kintyre peninsula and South Knapdale is carried out. Community benefit and shared ownership must, they say, be made a requirement of all future wind farm projects.
They also believe residents are at a disadvantage when dealing with complex, jargon-filled planning proposals, and called for the Scottish Government to enforce better community engagement and provide funding towards professional advice for community councils affected by larger developments falling under section 36 and 37 of of the Electricity Act 1989.
The government must explore alternative arrangements, added the group, for the re-opening of the Machrihanish wind turbine factory.
The height and number of turbines is of increasing concern, with recent applications proposing towers up to 230 metres high – some 50 per cent taller than many existing structures.
The group believes the cumulative effect will negatively impact the area’s scenic beauty and therefore tourism.
Bob Chicken, planning convenor for Tarbert and Skipness Community Council, said: ‘Our communities’ needs are being ignored. We believe that our proposals will strike a fairer balance between the need for greener power and the needs of the remote and rural populations who live and work in the lands used to generate it.’
The group’s specific concerns were put to renewable energy industry body Scottish Renewables.
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, replied by saying that rural Scotland had a ‘central role’ to play in delivering clean power for climate change targets.
She continued: ‘The latest UK Government figures show that only 10 per cent of Scots are opposed to the development of onshore wind farms. That data is supported by further research, carried out specifically in rural Scotland, which additionally showed higher support for onshore wind power among young people.
‘Renewables now provide the equivalent of 90 per cent of Scotland’s electricity consumption, with onshore wind delivering the bulk of that power, employing 5,400 people across the country and supporting a thriving supply chain of businesses from the central belt to the Borders, Highlands and Islands.’