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Councillors urged to oppose a South Knapdale wind farm with turbines ‘almost as tall as the Blackpool Tower’ have voted to see the site for themselves.
EDF Energy Renewables (EDF ER) has applied to build Airigh Wind Farm, composed of 14 wind turbines up to 145m tall in a ‘bowl-like’ area 8.4km south west of Tarbert.
Argyll and Bute Council has been relegated to the role of consultee, since applications to build onshore power stations generating more than 50MW require the consent of the Scottish Government.
Planning officers are recommending councillors on the Planning, Protective Service and Licensing committee object to the proposal, due to its ‘unacceptable, adverse and cumulative’ visual impact on Knapdale’s landscape, viewed from West Kintyre, Islay, Jura and Gigha.
A report presented before the committee last week stated: ‘If granted, the development may influence public attitudes to a point where tourists might become dissuaded from visiting due to the proliferation of wind farms.’
Tarbert and Skipness Community Trust and Ardrishaig Development Trust have signed a community ownership deal with EDF ER, which would bring in £5,000 per MW per annum, possibly totalling up to £8.82m over the wind farm’s lifetime.
Planning officers, however, argued the economic benefits would be outweighed by the adverse effects on the local environment.
The report explained that, so far, the Scottish Government had received six objections and three letters of support, one of which argued: ‘Mid Argyll is an area that really needs employment opportunities and this project will bring that.’
One objector wrote: ‘The turbines are to be the largest they can install at just under 150 metres high – eight metres short of the height of Blackpool Tower. Current Argyll and Bute regulations appear to limit turbine heights to 130 metres maximum.’ Another objector claimed: ‘These developments are not wanted by the vast majority of local inhabitants.’
West Kintyre Community Council also raised objections, but Ardrishaig Community Council did not at its meeting on January 19. The report, however, added: ‘The committee is small and may not be representative of the wider community. The limited visibility of the wind farm has resulted in a remarkably small number of objections from local residents.’
Councillors voted eight to three to hold a site visit to determine the visual impact.