A wind farm which could earn the Scottish Tories’ environment spokesman more than £8 million will make his constituents’ lives a misery, kill tourism jobs and turn a community into a “ghost village”, objectors have claimed.
Ardchonnel wind farm, which is being planned on a 3500-acre estate owned by Conservative MSP Sir Jamie McGrigor could even contribute to people suffering from depression, according to two doctors.
The proposed development would see 15-turbines erected on a hillside above Loch Awe in Argyll, each 111m or 364ft, the same height as seven double-decker buses.
Since the German energy giant RWE Innogy lodged a formal planning application in December, Argyll & Bute Council has received more than 60 objections from McGrigor’s constituents. At up to 45 megawatts, Ardchonnel would produce enough energy to supply 40% of the households in Argyll & Bute.
McGrigor, 64, an Eton-educated baronet who has been a Highland and Islands list MSP since 1999, struck a deal with RWE in 2011. The land is used for sheep grazing.
But if the wind farm goes ahead, McGrigor should receive £7000 a year “base rent” for each megawatt of installed capacity, or up to £315,000, plus extra if the wind farm performs very well, according to the agreement. Index-linked over the 25-year lifetime of the turbines, income from the site would top £8m.
In 2008, McGrigor signed a parliamentary motion demanding rules on windfarms to end “speculative applications … threatening scenic areas”.
Objectors claim Ardchonnel will ruin the skyline above Loch Awe and wreck the tourist trade, especially in Dalavich; create “intolerable” noise; and threaten rare bird life including sea eagles, golden eagles and ospreys. Argyll & Bute council is due to consider a formal report on the application by mid-May.
In one objection, Irene McClounnan, secretary of Dalavich Social Club, said Ardchonnel would “rip the heart out of this community potentially creating a ghost village”.
She said local people were not against turbines per se – indeed, her club had benefited from community funds from the nearby An Suidhe wind farm – but the Ardchonnel proposal was too big and prominent.
She said villagers remembered McGrigor telling them around six years ago that he would never have wind farms on his land, and the subsequent U-turn had angered people. “We feel that he’s just taking the Michael.”
Retired GPs Paul and Liane Jurek said they believed the noise pollution from Ardchonnel on people’s health would be “profound… and lead to possibly the most important health consequence, depression”.
Dalavich resident Sheila Clark said the noise would be “intolerable”. Fellow resident Mark Potter-Irwin said it would “spell the death knell of this village”.
But some locals have lodged letters of support, including McGrigor’s brother Sir Charlie McGrigor, and his mother, Lady Mary McGrigor.
Glenorchy & Innishail Community Council, which covers the site, voted to support the application.
But overall reaction has been hostile, with 66 objections and 17 letters of support.
In a statement, McGrigor said: “This development has the potential to be of substantial financial benefit to local communities. It stands to provide an annual income that will make the local economies more sustainable, while providing valuable jobs.
“The proposed location is in an area which has been identified as suitable for a renewable development of this kind.”
RWE says Ardchonnel is “very unlikely” to have a significant impact on tourism.
A spokeswoman said: “The nearest settlement with visibility of the Ardchonnel turbines would be approximately 3km from the site. A full environmental impact assessment which identifies and reviews potential impacts … has been submitted with the planning application.”
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