Claims have been made that West Dunbartonshire is closed for business after a wind farm application, which would have brought millions of pounds of investment to the area, was refused.
At last week’s planning committee meeting, West Dunbartonshire councillors voted against plans for the 10-turbine development at Merkins Farm between Bonhill and Gartocharn on the basis it would spoil views from Loch Lomond .
Scottish Socialist Councillor Jim Bollan believes the decision sets a dangerous precedent.
He said: “I am bitterly disappointed at the refusal of the project.
“These politicians have robbed Renton and Bellsmyre communities of £3million in much-needed community payback investment which would have created jobs and delivered community services.
“The councillors who voted against the project gave more weight to the voices of the great and the good objectors from outside West Dunbartonshire than they did to local people who would have seen huge benefits if this much-needed green energy project had been given the go-ahead.
“The signal this decision sends out is invest elsewhere, West Dunbartonshire is closed for business.”
During the meeting, a supporter of the project compared Dumbarton High Street to shipwreck the Mary Celeste, in a bid to encourage councillors to back the proposals which would have opened up new funding sources to community groups.
The holiday cottage business owner said: “West Dunbartonshire is crying out for investment.
“There are more impoverished and unemployed people in Dumbarton than people who would be offended by a wind turbine. It’s a real no brainer.”
If approved, the plan would have given voluntary organisations such as Bellsmyre Development Trust the opportunity of part-ownership of the wind farm for.
Speaking after the meeting, Donnie Nicholson from the Trust expressed concern that the plans, which would have been worth between £73,000 and £125,000 per year for at least 15 years to Bellsmyre, had been ditched.
He said: “This council is overseeing a decline in living standards for its residents and, given an opportunity, it’s putting the visual impairment of a fraction of visitors and non-residents over its own benefits.
“This wind farm would be a long-term commitment.
“It is a development that’s actually committed to putting money in that this council hasn’t got.”
Donnie pledged his support on behalf of the Trust to any appeal which may be lodged following last Wednesday’s decision.
Speaking after the meeting, Steve Macken of Lomond Energy said: “We are clearly disappointed by the decision which represents a significant loss to West Dunbartonshire.
“In the face of strong local support, the council has turned its back on a once in a generation investment opportunity.
“ I would like to thank the residents and communities who have supported our project. We will now have to weigh up our options and consider our next move.”
Relieved objectors were pleased with the decision by the planning committee, by two votes to three in favour of refusing the application, including Chairman of the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, James Fraser who made an impassioned plea during the meeting to reject the plans on the basis Loch Lomond should remain unspoilt.
He said: “It is no accident the National Park is the most heavily visited countryside destination in Scotland with around four million day visitors and tourists each year.
“They are attracted here to enjoy the special qualities of the area and to participate in a wide range of recreational opportunities against a world-class scenic backdrop.
“The turbines would have a significant adverse effect on the landscape character and setting of the national park and the Kilpatrick Hills and would be a prominent intrusion on the skyline.
“Tourists contribute over £200million a year to the local economy supporting many thousands of jobs.
“Given Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is Scotland’s most popular day trip and tourist destination it is important everything possible is done to protect its special landscape qualities.”
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