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