A remote island community has banded together to fight plans for a wind farm overlooking one of Scotland’s most celebrated tourist attractions, the “Bridge over the Atlantic”.
Residents on Seil, near Oban, say the development would scar the picturesque landscape, which attracts thousands of tourists each year.
The Bridge of Clachan was designed by Thomas Telford and has linked the island to the Scottish mainland since 1792.
People Against Clachan Turbines (PACT) is to hold its first meeting on Wednesday in the Seil Island Hall ahead of Rory Young submitting a planning application to Argyll and Bute Council for 11 77-metre-tall turbines on the mainland side of the bridge.
Islander George Stewart, a retired hotelier and member of PACT, fears the turbines could block tourists’ views of the beauty spot.
“It is just a disaster,” said Stewart. “This is such a popular spot for tourists. It’s a very beautiful, well-known area. We want to meet to gather as much support against this project as possible.”
Stuart Reid, another member of PACT, said: “It’s not that we are against the building of wind farms, it is just that they are not suitable for this particular site as it is such a spot of historic beauty. Argyll relies so heavily on tourism that we are very worried that this could have an adverse effect.
“You just go over the bridge and it is right there. It is almost verging on the ludicrous, how close it is.”
However Young, 32, who is operating under the name of West Coast Renewables, defended the proposals and said Clachan Wind Farm would produce enough electricity to supply approximately 5,000 households a year.
“We are aware these things can be quite controversial to some people,” he said. “But we have really done our best to try to minimise any impact.”
Young, a cattle farmer, said he planned to continue farming on the land at Clachan Farm, which has belonged to his mother’s family, the Cadzows, for more than 60 years.
“The farm was split up a couple of years ago and the part on the Isle of Seil went to my uncle and we took the part on the mainland,” he said.
“It is a very small farm and we needed to do something to make it viable. This will give us the chance to do that.”
He added: “I think it’s nice that this project has been done by a local person. Any profits we do make, the tax and the rates and so on, will be put back into the Scottish economy.
Most wind farms are done by large utility companies which are not headquartered in Britain, never mind in Scotland.”
The area is also the site of another, much larger proposed wind farm, Raera, which is being planned by energy giant npower and is still awaiting planning permission.
Young, who also runs a business selling Christmas trees from his other farm in Dumfries, has put forward suggestions for how the community could benefit from the development – either in the form of a lump sum donated for local projects every year, or the potential for locals to build and operate their own turbine on the site.
The amount of money available for community use is likely to be around £100,000 – 3 per cent of the projected £2.7 million annual turnover of the farm.
“We have proposed that we use much smaller turbines than most commercial-scale wind farms,” added Young.
“The ones we would get would be painted green to a third of the way up, so only the tops would be visible in the landscape. Some people might think we are Satan at the moment, but we’re doing our best – we really are.”
The PACT meeting will be held a day after a report is due to be published that will show wind farm approvals in Scotland have dropped significantly in the face of opposition from residents keen to avoid developments on their doorsteps.
A report due to be published by RenewableUK at its annual conference in Glasgow on Tuesday is expected to warn that if Britain is to meet its targets for renewable energy generation, more developments need to be approved.
Scotland is among the most ambitious countries in the world in terms of its renewable energy targets.
First Minister Alex Salmond recently announced that as much as 80 per cent of electricity is to be produced from green energy sources by 2020, up from a previous target of 50 per cent.
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