Campaigners fighting plans for an offshore wind farm at Kintyre have welcomed the news that the project has been abandoned.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has decided to halt work on the development and instead concentrate on a site off Islay.
SSE was granted exclusive rights to develop both sites by the Crown Estate in 2009.
The Kintyre site, 2km off Kintyre, west of Machrihanish, was earmarked for a 378MW, 105-turbine development which would cover about 70sq km. An application was expected to be submitted in early 2012.
But the company said site survey work and consultations identified factors that led it to decide not to proceed further. These include the proximity to Campbeltown Airport and communities and the impact on recreational sailing.
SSE says survey work shows the Islay site, 13km off the west coast of the island, is suitable for the development of a viable wind farm, although it presents challenges from difficult weather and seabed conditions.
However, SSE says these can be overcome and it expects to submit an application to develop the site to the Scottish Government around the end of 2013.
Colin Hood, chief operating officer of SSE, said: “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.
“Islay has massive potential to contribute to the Scottish and UK governments’ renewable energy targets. Our proposed timetable for developing this site will allow time for the innovative development of the offshore technology and construction techniques necessary to build a wind farm in such a challenging environment.”
Mr Hood said SSE remained committed to developing offshore wind power in the UK – with wind farms at Greater Gabbard, off the Suffolk coast, and Walney, off Cumbria, producing their first electricity in January.
The firm also has plans to develop offshore sites at Galloper, off Suffolk, and Beatrice, off the east coast of Scotland, with applications expected within the next 12 months.
The Kintyre Offshore Windfarm Action Group (KOWAG) was set up to oppose the proposed development. It argued that the scale of the planned development would destroy views and harm tourism, with knock-on effects on golf and sailing in the area.
The group also said the project would impact on house prices, harm the marine environment and bird life, and affect the livelihoods of local residents.
Bob Miller, vice-chairman of KOWAG, said he believed the campaign had a huge influence on the U-turn: “We are delighted to hear of the decision by SSE.
“The group has argued consistently that the proposed site was inappropriate and that, had the wind farm gone ahead, there would have been a significant detrimental effect on tourism and, consequently, on employment in Kintyre and on nearly every aspect of life in the area.
“We are still angry the Crown Estate had the ability to foist such a development on an isolated and fragile community.”
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