A plea to use underground cables rather than overhead lines to connect two South Ayrshire wind farms has been rebuffed.
Councillor Alec Clark told the members of South Ayrshire Council’s regulatory panel that the residents of Barrhill had raised significant concerns about a planning application to use overhead lines connect the consented wind farms at Stranoch and Chirmorie to the existing substation site at Mark Hill.
The size and position of the overhead lines proposed have been a worry for the community, according to Cllr Clark, including impact of tourism in the area, as well as the valuation of their homes.
However, he complained that that no reference to the objections was made in the council report.
Unlike most planning applications, the development of windfarms is controlled by the Scottish Government with South Ayrshire Council required to respond to the consultation.
Cllr Clark (Independent, Girvan and South Carrick) said: “This line has been in discussion since 2017. I have received very many representations and concerns raised by community, especially from some of the properties it will be travelling through.”
He pointed out that the pylons would would be higher than normal poles.
He said: “The community in Barrhill have been very accommodating with regard to wind farms and overhead lines.
“This doesn’t mean they are against having them in certain places.”
Mr Clark made the suggestion that a small section of the connection around the community could be installed underground, a kilometre on either side of the area.
He added that recent storms had led to power cables being brought down, and warned that any similar accidents in South Ayrshire arising from overhead lines would be “a disaster”.
Planning officer Ross Lee explained that the council had gone to the developer with these concerns, but had been told that an underground cable would be unviable, both financially and environmentally.
He added that any attempt to change the application could lead to an entirely new application having to be lodged.
Cllr Clark said the authority still had to recognise and take into account the community’s views.
Responding to a query from Cllr Ian Cavana (Labour, Ayr North) on water supply, council environmental health officer Connie Lobban said an overhead line would cause fewerproblems.
Going underground, she said, would require a trench a minimum of 10 metres wide to be built across the entire route of the cables – and that the land would have to be dug up again should any repairs or maintenance be required.
Ms Lobban added that the machinery required to carry out underground works would cause more disruption than overhead cables, roads would have to be closed for prolonged periods.
She added that, unlike overhead cables, the land would be unable to be used for the likes of agriculture for 25 years or more.
The trenches would even have to be dug up by hand if they came to close to a water supply.
Ms Lobban concluded: “Underground would result in maximum disruption. Overhead cables would bring minimum disruption.”
Cllrs Cavana and Clark both acknowledged the situation, but Cllr Clark reiterated his view that ‘cognisance’ should be paid to the community’s views.
Mr Iles explained that in this instance the council could not take the community objection on its own, but did agree to include it in the response to the Scottish Government as a point raised during the debate.
The panel agreed to offer no objection to the plan, on the basis that the response did acknowledge local concerns.
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