The widow of cult TV presenter Tom Weir has vowed to continue her late husband’s conservation work and oppose a new windfarm near her home at Loch Lomond.
Rhona Weir, now in her 90s, accused developers of defacing the Kilpatrick Hills beside the house she shared with her husband, who shot to fame presenting outdoor TV programme Weir’s Way in the late 1970s.
However, her stance has put her at odds with others in the local community, which was shown in a recent survey to be strongly in favour of the proposed Merkins Windfarm.
The plan has already been backed by community councillors and a residents’ community trust, and the developers – based in the area – insist the benefits will remain with local people.
In a letter to The Herald, Ms Weir said Scotland suffered from a “blind-eye syndrome” that blocked out wind energy’s deficiencies.
Describing the countryside as “a unique asset”, she wrote that building windfarms was “akin to vandalising Dali’s priceless portrayal of Christ”.
“Nothing can compensate for windfarms’ intrusiveness, inefficiency, tranquility-pollution and general needlessness when, at suitable sites, much more use could be made of the really reliable sources of land and sea water,” she added.
The Merkins Farm development, situated next to a former landfill site south of Gartocharn, has yet to be formally proposed to West Dunbartonshire Council.
The developers, Lomond Energy, hope to submit an application soon, begin work next year, and have the project up and running in early 2013. It would be built on land owned by a local farmer.
Company co-founder Steve Macken, who lives near the site himself and serves as secretary of the Kilmaronock Community Council, said the scheme had been “developed in the community from the grassroots up”.
“We’re a local company based in Gartocharn, and our angle on development goes back to the traditional philosophy in the industry which is to have community involvement.
“We’re not some Spanish or German multinational coming in to develop this – the benefits will be retained in the community.”
He added that the size of the proposal had already been reduced from 15 to 10 turbines, each 110 or 120 metres tall, and that the nearest home was 1.3 miles away from the site. He has consulted with Glasgow Airport to avoid any threat to flights, which derailed a previous attempt to build a windfarm nearby.
The farm, if built as planned, would have a capacity of 20 megawatts. Mr Macken said it would operate at 33%-34% of capacity because it was in a particularly exposed area. Windfarms typically achieve a figure of less than 30%.
Local resident Sally Page, who is also opposed to the windfarm, questioned Mr Macken’s dual position as head of Lomond Energy and community council secretary.
He said he had offered to resign when the proposal was first brought up, but received the backing of his fellow councillors and stayed on.
Ms Page, who has joined Ms Weir in her stand, said: “My main objection is that it’s very close to an area of outstanding natural beauty.
“I know it’s outwith the boundary [of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National park], but they’re supposed to be tourist destinations, and I’m quite sure that if tourists come in and see windfarms they’re not going to be thrilled.”
She said subsidies and cashback schemes for windfarms threw off communities’ economic judgement, and were “skewing the future supply of energy”.
However, Sheila Cronin, chair of the Kilmaronock Community Trust, said the farm could attract local investment and bring in funds to pay for local projects.
Proponents have sought to play down talk of a split in the community, pointing to a poll conducted by the Kilmaronock Community Council which found 66% approval for the project.
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