Wind turbines ‘too big’ for location, say planners

The turbines as they would be seen from the reservoir above Helensburgh
The turbines as they would be seen from the reservoir above Helensburgh

Proposals for a community wind farm above Helensburgh have hit a hurdle, with planners saying the turbines should be much smaller.

Helensburgh Renewables revealed in January that it wanted to build five 86-metre turbines on a site above the town, near to the reservoirs.

A presentation released online at the time stated that Argyll and Bute Council officials had advised 50 metres would be the highest turbines permissible on the site

But the presentation added: “For avoidance of doubt turbines of up to 50m tip height is not a viable option, however there may be a compromise position using machines of 74m to tip although this would lead to a significant reduction in cash available to the community.”

Now though a scoping report has been produced by the council after consultations with bodies including Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), West Dunbartonshire Council, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Historic Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and RSPB Scotland.

And this document repeats that to fit in with planning guidelines the turbines would need to be lower than 50 metres in height, adding: “The scale of this proposal (especially in terms of turbine height) is unlikely to be appropriate for this location and may result in very significant adverse landscape and visual impacts.”

It points out that the site is within two kilometres of the Loch Lomond National Scenic Area and only 200m from the national park itself.

Hen harriers and short-eared owls nest ‘in close proximity’ to the site and there are records of black grouse in the area, while the report advises that there should be particular consideration of any potential impact on the Hill House.

A spokesperson for Helensburgh Renewables, the company set up by the community to develop plans for Helensburgh Community Wind Farm, responded to the report by saying:

“Helensburgh Community Wind Farm is designed to be a tremendous asset for the people and future of Helensburgh’s community, and as such we have been engaged in ongoing dialogue with Argyll and Bute Council and various consultees.

“The submission of this formal scoping report marks a significant milestone in the project’s process, and we have addressed all of the issues and concerns raised within it, including turbine height and wildlife impact.

“Whilst the 50m recommendation is derived from a regional study, every individual project is subject to a detailed Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment based on the actual site.

“We have therefore designed Helensburgh Community Wind Farm to fit within the specific topography of Tom na Airdh, with medium sized turbines placed within a balanced cluster off hilltop.

“Regards nesting, we have already engaged in two years of ecology studies, with an extensive campaign of field survey identifying no unacceptable impact on wildlife.”

The total cost of the project is expected to be £7.8m; as long as the project is in profit the community would receive a minimum of £40,000 annually, with the average community benefit predicted to be around £130,000 rising to £550,000 after 12 years when the loan has been repaid.

The project is being planned in conjunction with Green Cat Renewables and Luss Estates; a planning application has not yet been submitted. Images of the wind farm are in the slideshow below:

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The full scoping report document is available to download here (large file size) A&B scoping

4 Comments

  1. Wading through the A&B C guidance is difficult and needs a good memory for the jargon I think a summary is required to put the Helensburgh site in context without spin. The Argyll and Bute Wind Energy Capacity Study 2012 looks at 5 size groups of wind turbines.

    Domestic or very small less than 20m
    Small 20m to 35m
    Small/Medium 35m to 50m
    Medium 50m to 80m
    Large 80m to 130m
    The Area above Helensburgh is described as open ridgeland and comprises gently rolling hills, The recommendation in the report for this landscape type is:
    “There is no scope for the larger typologies to be located within this landscape type without
    incurring significant impacts on a number of sensitivity criteria.
    There is some limited scope for the small-medium turbines to be accommodated in this
    landscape. Turbines should be sited away from pronounced hill tops and ridges, particularly
    those above Glen Fruin and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. They should be
    located on lower hill slopes and within natural dips or shelves where rising ground would
    provide a degree of backdrop able to minimise visual impact.
    There is increased scope to accommodate the small typology and turbines <20m high
    providing these are sited so they avoid intrusion on key views to the mountains. Smaller
    turbines should be sited in accordance with the guidance set out in section 7 of this report."
    The key comment is limited scope for Small/Medium (35m to 50m) sited away from hilltops and ridges. The site is as claimed by the developer not on the hill top which is further North but the site is above the ridge line when viewed from Helensburgh or from Loch Lomond and is certainly not on "lower hill slopes and within natural dips or shelves" Not withstanding this for some perverse reason the developer thinks exceeding the 50m bound by 50% or the lower bound by 110% is a resonable interpretation of the guidance. It is not and this application must be rejected as detailed in the scoping report.

  2. I think Helensburgh are being led a merry dance by the developers. This is just a front to make a wind farm seem attractive. If Helensburgh CWF raised cash themselves, they could probably till generate a profit with 3 small scale turbines, similar to those at Dalry. The Community windfarm there is very small an unobtrusive but small turbines are not really the flavour these days.

    The increasing number of large so-called Community Windfarms is highly suspect – major developers are behind almost all of them and using it to try and get in via the backdoor, raking masive profits whilst throwing crumbs to communities. .

    As Jim Royle might say ‘Community my a***’. Bribery is more appropriate.

    • Well Said Jamie and spot on.
      I notice a statement regarding the ‘necessary and viable ‘ size of the turbines – I seem to have heard and read that somewhere recently – oh! I remember !- the Cove Wind Farm statement !
      Ms Glover has highlighted this in her letter to the Advertiser this week too.
      Funny that this seems to be a new justification in a developer’s eyes for conflicting with planning policy.

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