Angry villagers are fighting plans to erect what will be the UK’s tallest wind turbines on the west coast of Scotland.
Residents on the Firth of Clyde claim their human rights are under threat from the giant structures – thought to be the second-highest of their kind in the world.
North Ayrshire Council’s planning committee has given SSE Renewables permission to develop what is being billed as Scotland’s first offshore wind turbine testing site at Hunterston.
The site has a planned five-year lifespan, although members of Fairlie Community Council, which represents some 2000 people, fear it could become permanent.
They have vowed to consider legal action over the project, which involves the testing of three giant sea turbines – on land.
David Telford, chairman of Fairlie Community Council, said no-one locally could understand how offshore installations could be properly tested on land.
He said: “We suspect this is just a way of getting a commercial wind farm up and running, because they have confirmed they are going to feed power into the grid. We think it only reasonable that the full council, not just a handful of councillors, consider this.”
Mr Telford has written to council leader David O’Neill to “formally request that this unlawful and bizarre decision by the planning committee is ‘called in’ by the full council for further detailed and proper legal scrutiny”.
The letter continues: “We strenuously recommend that you take independent legal advice on this matter.”
He says it is the firm view of the community council that the decision is “a clear breach of our human rights” under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. This states: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right…”
The only exceptions are when national security, public safety, the economic well-being of the country, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others are concerned.
But Ian Mackay, solicitor to North Ayrshire Council, insisted the decision was arrived at democratically and only after the applicant and Fairlie Community Council had presented their cases.
“We do not believe that Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights is relevant to this decision,” he said.
An SSE spokesman said the size of the turbines had not been determined but admitted they were likely to be a “considerable height”, with a maximum diameter of 547ft and tip height of 651ft.
This compares to the Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow, where turbines are 360ft when the blade is at its highest point.
It would mean the turbines would be almost 140ft higher than the towers on the Forth Road Bridge and more than three times the height of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh.
Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said the development would allow manufacturers to demonstrate the reliability of the next generation of longer-capacity turbines ahead of deployment offshore.
But Mr Telford said: “The inhabitants of the village of Fairlie will have our homes and our home environment blighted, our population made ill by noise and coal dust, our local climate altered, our property devalued.
“We are being made unwilling guinea pigs as a part of this extremely dangerous experiment.”
He claims independent legal advice supports this view and could be used in mounting a legal challenge.