More than 100 people turned out at a public debate on proposals for a wind farm in the hills above Helensburgh – and voted against the idea.
The meeting, held in the Victoria Halls, was hosted by Helensburgh Community Council last Thursday, October 23.
The developers – Helensburgh Renewables and Green Cat Renewables – and land owner Luss Estates debated with community opposition group Turbine Evaluation Group – Helensburgh and area (TEG-H) and answered questions from residents on a number of topics.
Questions included: who pays to decommission the turbines; what affect will the turbines have on tourism in the area; how has the wind speed been measured for the particular area; and who will govern where the money goes within the community.
All parties involved were pleased with how engaged the audience were and the turnout at the event, and TEG-H won the debate with 45 people voting against the plans, 21 in favour. The remaining 37 abstained.
A TEG-H spokesman said: “Rejection of the proposed Helensburgh wind farm at the community council’s meeting was emphatic. The vote was two-to-one against.
“It was the fourth public statement of dismay at the 86.5 metres high turbines overlooking Helensburgh and beyond. To date there have been 279 formal letters of objection compared with only eight in favour. In the Rhu and Shandon survey, 89 per cent opposed the wind farm. The developers’ own questionnaire showed 62 per cent against it.
“Now 68 per cent opposed it at the community council’s well-attended meeting.”
Developers Helensburgh Renewables submitted the long-anticipated planning application to Argyll and Bute Council in July for the five 800kW wind turbines – which will stand 86.5 metres high to blade tip.
The community wind farm plans also seek permission for the formation of new vehicular access, crane hardstandings, and the erection of substation and temporary works compound.
The development is earmarked for land to the south east of Tom Na H Airidh, and north of Drum-fad Wood, about 2km north of Helensburgh, but on land within the Rhu and Shandon Community Council boundary.
Helensburgh community councillors decided to hold a meeting to better inform the community on the matter which was considered ‘one of the most significant applications affecting Helensburgh in recent years’.
Community councillor John Tacchi chaired the meeting with each side given 15 minutes to present their case to the public before a question and answer session.
The developers were pleased with the opportunity to answer points raised by local people, and by objector group TEG-H at last week’s Helensburgh Community Wind Farm Debate.
Gavin Catto, of Green Cat Renewables, said: “As is often the case at wind farm public meetings, objectors outnumbered supporters. However, the breadth of questions from the public was very encouraging, and together with Ian and Simon, I was pleased to help provide answers on everything from finance and business model through to the technology and the increasingly important role of wind power in the UK.”
Simon Miller, chief executive of Luss Estates, added: “The debate covered many different aspects of the proposals. However, it was clear that, for objectors, visual impact remains a key concern, and I was therefore pleased to have the opportunity to refute TEG-H’s claims that the presence of five turbines will be economically detrimental.
“As chief executive of a business which has invested millions in the local property and tourism sectors in recent years, we simply would not consider backing Helensburgh Community Wind Farm if we thought it would be harmful to either.”
Developers say the Burgh community will receive a 33 per cent share in the scheme via a locally-elected development trust, with a potential to bring in £100,000 a year, or £4 million over the lifetime of the project.
Helensburgh Renewables strongly believes the wind turbines will create a Common Good Fund which will benefit the whole of Helensburgh and Lomond.
Following Thursday’s event, Ian Fraser, of Helensburgh Renewables, said: “Fundamentally, this is about the creation of a Common Good Fund for Helensburgh and I am very much encouraged by the many questions regarding how the fund would be established and governed.
“With so much focus on the Community Wind Farm itself, it was good to also discuss how local people can get involved in effectively managing the money generated.”
However, at the meeting questions were raised as to how many people were on the development trust and how funds would be distributed.
A spokesman for TEG-H added: “Economic loss to Helensburgh could be much greater than the cash being offered by the developers in compensation for such harm. By contrast, millions of pounds already raised for Hermitage Park, the Submarine Museum, Heritage Room, countryside footpaths, and much else have been done without damaging the town.
“Finally, Thursday’s meeting exposed one new fact. The Development Trust, which claims to represent the community, consists of only two people. TEG-H considers that the wind farm is a seriously flawed proposal.”
However, when asked at the meeting about the number of directors of the development trust, Ian Fraser, said he welcomed anyone to join and if no on did the trust would be handed over to Foundation Scotland who run in partnership with Argyll and Bute Council.
Ian added: “If no one wanted to join the development trust, we would hand over the trust to Foundation Scotland who would have representatives from Helensburgh and Lomond.
“Foundation Scotland could take over the running of the trust and give proper governance of the trust and the money.”
The planning application will now go to Argyll and Bute Council’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee for a public hearing to decide its fate.
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