One of Scotland’s largest energy firms has bowed to local opposition and abandoned plans for an offshore windfarm near Kintyre.
Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) said yesterday it had decided to halt work on its proposed development just over a mile off Machrihanish on the peninsula’s west coast, citing a wide variety of factors including the impact on leisure and local residents.
Activists with the Kintyre Offshore Windfarm Action Group have secured cross-party support for their campaign against the development, focusing on its impact on tourism and claiming it would “ruin” the local economy.
Yesterday, they hailed news of their victory as “a pleasant surprise” – though a similar development is still set to go ahead in nearby waters off Islay.
SSE was granted exclusive rights to develop both sites in 2009, but said yesterday: “Initial site survey work and consultations relating to the windfarm planned to be developed two kilometres off the west coast of Kintyre have identified a number of factors that have led SSE to decide not to proceed further with the development of this site. These include the wind resource, the proximity to Campbeltown Airport and local communities, and the impact on recreational sailing in the area.”
It had been planned to erect 105 turbines, typically standing about 80 metres clear of the water at low tide.
However, a parallel scheme nearly 10 miles off the west coast of Islay is still “suitable for the development of a viable windfarm” despite presenting “a number of challenges resulting from difficult weather and seabed conditions,” SSE added.
Nick Henley Price, secretary of the windfarm action group, denied that activists had a “not in my backyard” mentality and said the costs of the proposed windfarm far outweighed the benefits it would bring.
“It was the potential ruination of the community,” he said. “About 27% of the gross income to Kintyre is tourism, and there would have been a very major fall- back on tourism. We have two world-class golf courses where windfarms would have been the backdrop.
“The long-term job opportunities in offshore windfarms in Kintyre are very, very small. The potential loss of tourism would be very, very substantial.”
Though the group was campaigning for the Scottish Government to drop the Kintyre site from its final plan for offshore wind, it said SSE’s withdrawal meant the scheme was effectively dead.
“I don’t see [that] any developer, having seen what’s going on, would spend the time or the money involved. They all have easier paths to tread,” said Mr Henley Price, himself employed by an offshore drilling company.
He said the group remained in favour of windfarms, where appropriate, and had no problem with an onshore development in Kintyre, which he described as pretty well hidden.
He said: “I think common sense has come into it. There are places where windfarms are accessible and workable and places where they’re totally inappropriate.”
The Kintyre project would have blotted views of Jura, Islay and Rathlin Island, Mr Henley Price said.
Opposition had already been lodged by the Royal Yacht Association, which said the site was too dangerous to proceed, and by members of the prestigious Machrihanish Golf Club, who wrote to ministers that it would “permanently disfigure” the landscape.
Politicians from the four main parties had come out against the proposals, which would have been finalised next year.
Colin Hood, chief operating officer of SSE, said the firm was committed to developing offshore wind but would now focus on the site at Islay, which would require advances in technology to make it viable.
“Having assessed the wind resource, listened to the concerns of local residents, businesses and other stakeholders, and having regard to the impact of Campbeltown Airport and the recreational sailing community, we believe our decision to halt the development of the Kintyre site is the responsible course of action to take. We are grateful to everyone who took part in our consultations on the project,” he said.
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