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Protesters dismiss windfarm survey

Protesters fighting to stop developers creating a new windfarm near Drymen have rubbished the findings of a survey which has been conducted by the company.

EVAG say that, with the assistance of a professional market researcher, they have studied the telephone survey report commissioned for Banks Renewables, which hope to install up to 20 turbines at Ard Ghaoth/Craigievern.

While the developers say there is only 23 per cent opposition to the plans – with 39 per cent support and 34 per cent neutral – the protesters beg to differ with these figures.

An EVAG spokesperson said: “The survey seems to be an exercise designed to influence people, borne out by the coding of responses into a framework, responses on community benefit/investment being garnered at this time without fact to assist in a decision, and by the survey asking whether the respondent would be prepared to sign a letter of support or a petition.

“The report was poorly prepared and did not show care for the area.

“It doesn’t take much to check place names and yet the report contains such errors as Balfrom; Bucklyvie; Crief; Calander.

“It makes continued mention of the Loch Lomond National Park. A little research would credit the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park with its full title.”

EVAG also claim the survey was based on “ludicrously small numbers” – 458 from the rural area and 101 from people living in Stirling.

The spokesperson added: “These figures represent a paltry 3.4 per cent of the estimated current rural population, and 0.3 per cent of those in Stirling. The report also warns of low base sizes.

“Why Stirling? Yes, the windfarm would be visible on clear day from as far as the Wallace Monument, and people from Stirling visit the National Park, which would be adjacent to the windfarm. But Stirling is hardly local to the site.

“Taking into account only those villages within the Stirling Council area which would be impacted upon by the windfarm, there are 13 community council areas involved.

“Surely some of those residents should have been given the opportunity to comment?

“An example of a flawed question is that relating to community benefit/investment which asks respondents to grade town centre development/regeneration. Which town?

“Some of the response gathering is also flawed. For example, 18 per cent of respondents living in Stirling stated they lived in the National Park; 79 per cent of people living in Drymen and 82 per cent of those living in Gartmore stated that they lived in the National Park. Drymen and Gartmore are both within the National Park.

“The market research company have stated in their report that those who fall into the ‘Don’t know’/Don’t care’ category should be included with those in favour of the proposal.

“If one disregards the expression ‘don’t care’ which was not a separate option in the question, then essentially the people who answered that they had no real opinion were answering accurately as there is no firm proposal on the table.

“Banks have stated that they are in the process of reviewing the design for the site.

“EVAG ask an analogous question: do electoral polls automatically include a substantial percentage of ‘don’t knows’ into one political camp because it suits the purpose?”

Banks Renewables contend the survey has shown “a good degree of support for a windfarm in this area even before the proposals have been finalised and fully promoted”.

They also say that “extensive local benefits” will be delivered should the site be approved, including a long-term community partnering and investment proposal.