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Ascog wind developer hits out at Argyll and Bute Council

The man behind plans for three 74-metre wind turbines at Ascog Farm on Bute has criticised Argyll and Bute Council’s handling of his application.

Adrian Tear has launched an appeal against the council’s decision in May to refuse his application for planning permission.

In a written submission to the Scottish Government’s department for planning and environmental appeals (DPEA), Mr Tear accuses councillors and officials of “absolutely no positive engagement” with his proposals.

In his submission to the DPEA, Mr Tear said: “A refusal decision has been recommended by Planners and subsequently issued by the Council essentially on the basis that (a) the turbines proposed exceed the suggested maximum 20m tip height recommended in the March 2012 Landscape Wind Energy Capacity Study report for all of Argyll & Bute’s islands; (b) the turbine layout proposed exhibits turbine towers and/or blades which overlap (from one perspective) leading to ‘stacking’, and (c) that the turbines proposed do not adhere to a ‘⅓ height aspect ratio’ with regard to the height of the hill on which they would sit.

“I would argue that (a) a 20m maximum tip height is completely arbitrary; (b) stacking cannot be avoided from some compass point in any layout of two or more turbines; (c) many other turbines, including one pictured on television lately, exceed ⅓ of the height of the landform on which they sit.

“Had we known, when we embarked on this project, that a low and completely arbitrary height limit on turbine developments on Argyll and Bute’s islands would later be imposed by the local council, we might have come up with different proposals, perhaps for a very much larger number of much smaller turbines?

“The council knew, as far back as 2010, that we were exploring the possibility of installing medium typology wind turbines at Ascog Farm, yet at no stage were we told that our only chance of success at planning would be to select sub-20m to tip height equipment.

“The council website clearly endorses community benefit onshore wind farms and even mentions the organisations (Community Energy Scotland and the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewables Energy Scheme, CARES) with whom we have been working over these past few years.

“Despite Argyll & Bute Council’s recognition of its rich wind, tidal and hydro resources and its public, web-facing endorsement of renewable energy schemes, aside from our necessary dealings with the planning pepartment, there has unfortunately been absolutely no positive engagement with the local authority to support, discuss ideas, consider or amend plans to ensure success at planning for a community benefit onshore wind energy project at Ascog Farm.

“Meetings have been held with local councillors and presentations have been given on Bute, yet no interest in this community benefit onshore wind project has been shown by Argyll and Bute Council.”

Mr Tear’s submission also accused members of the council’s planning, protective services and licensing (PPSL) committee of failing to give proper consideration to his proposals at their meeting on May 22.

Planning officers had recommended holding a public hearing to determine the application, but PPSL members decided there and then to turn down the proposal.

Mr Tear’s submission to the DPEA continued: “Following over-runs and extensive deliberation regarding seemingly inconsequential matters our business (a £3.5 million investment with the potential to raise a forecasted £1.5 million for a community organisation on Bute) came to the committee at 12.25 pm.

“A presentation of around 20 minutes was made by planners. Following a brief but awkward silence some 3-5 minutes of ‘debate’ was had by councillors on the PPSL committee; mainly to the effectthat objections to wind farm applications throughout Argyll and Bute from places as far away as New Zealand were pushing up the council postage budget.

“Neither the planners’ slides nor the ‘debate’ ensuing considered the carbon reduction benefits of the application nor the direct or indirect economic benefits of the proposals; all considerations were visual, even including a picture taken by a planning officer of ‘A’Listed Balmory Hall (Bute) which Historic Scotland had already determined would not suffer any significant detrimental effects in terms of setting (sufficient to raise an objection) as a result of the Ascog Farm proposals.

“The Committee, after this short and stultified ‘debate’, decided not to hold a hearing into the application and to dismiss the application there and then.

“Discussion of our business, the result of many months of work conducted at a cost in excess of £120,000, was concluded by 12.50pm.”

You can read Mr Tear’s submission in full at the DPEA website.