Helensburgh has become known as a ‘banana town’ – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone – claim the team behind plans for a community wind farm above the town.
And Helensburgh Community Development Trust say Argyll and Bute Council has a £50m ‘black hole’ in its finances, so with little likelihood of spending from that quarter they plan to develop a local common good fund.
As revealed here in September, the proposals for five 86-metre turbines have already hit problems with planning officers, who say they are too big for the site.
The turbines would be visible from areas including the Rosneath Peninsula, Dunoon, Inverclyde and parts of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park..
But the trust argues that the site above Helensburgh already has electricity pylons and an oil pipeline going through it, so the turbines ‘will not change its essential character’.
Trust managing director Ian Fraser said attendance at a two-day exhibition of the plans in the Victoria Halls had been disappointing, but the team would continue trying to publicise the project to local people.
“A degree of pragmatism is required here,” said a statement available at the event: “Times are hard, and there is not a lot of money about.
“Helensburgh is known in some quarters as a Banana town. We are now in the running for a Plook on a Plinth award!
“This should bring it home to people that it is time for a change in attitude – instead of telling everyone how hard done to Helensburgh is, we can get hold of ourselves and make some money for the town without doing any lasting harm to anyone or the environment.”
In an attempt to answer objections, they say: “We have tried to be as sensitive as possible with the siting of the turbines, their height and their installed capacity.
“These are the smallest commercial machines which make financial sense, as lower and smaller turbines will generate much less energy.
“We believe that we have managed to design a scheme that fits within the landscape of this site despite being slightly larger than the recommended 50-metres tall.”
The trust, landowners Luss Estates and Biggar firm Green Cat Renewables Ltd have signed heads of terms agreement and are equal partners in the project.
They say they accept that historic NOABL wind data figures are often optimistic, have seen the disappointing wind readings for the abortive Cove Community Wind Farm, but are still confident the project will deliver enough community benefit to be worthwhile.
The development trust would take the first £40,000 in any year, with a three-way split between the partners only kicking in after the £120,000 barrier is passed.
The figures are well below the amount hoped for by the Cove wind farm, with the target amount of electricity produced being about a third of the Cove target.
“Although £40,000 does not sound like an enormous sum in a town our size, it is still more than we have just now, and remember that it could be very much more,” said the trust statement, adding that the income would increase after 12 years, when the bank loan is paid off.
An Environmental Impact Assessment for the Helensburgh wind farm is due to be completed next month, but information boards at the exhibition said it had been established that there were no issues with wildlife such as birds of prey, black grouse and otters.