Helensburgh’s residents have been urged to ‘grasp the opportunity’ of a community wind farm in an open letter released this week.
The appeal by Ian Fraser of Helensburgh Renewables came days after planners seemed to deliver another blow to the project for five 86.5-metre turbines.
In an unusual move, an official at Argyll and Bute Council has written to the developers saying it is ‘unlikely’ that they will be able to support the project, ‘due mainly to impacts on the national park but also for other reasons including impact on the Inner Clyde area’.
The letter also notes that the RSPB has said the application lacks the level of detail required, and highlights objections by Scottish Natural Heritage, Rhu and Shandon Community Council, air traffic authorities and Glasgow Airport.
But a spokesperson for the developers behind the project – Helensburgh Renewables, Luss Estates and Green Cat Renewables – said that the application would not be withdrawn, while Mr Fraser released an open letter.
He says that more than £100,000 per year would be generated for local causes by the project at Tom na h’Airidh hill – Helensburgh Renewables’ website states: “In a normal year we would expect our share to be around £130,000. Even in years of exceptionally low wind, the community will receive £40,000 as a minimum.”
The open letter is reproduced in full below
Many comments have been made recently regarding Helensburgh Community Council’s decision to back the planning application for 5 wind turbines above Helensburgh. We are in danger of forgetting why this application to Argyll and Bute council was made in the first place. So let’s wind the clock back to December 2009.
Five years ago, at a meeting of HCC, of which I am a member, a discussion took place about the town’s dismal Christmas lights. I asked why Helensburgh, unlike many other towns, does not have a Common Good which could be used for such projects. An Argyll and Bute councillor asked ‘how would I fund one’, so I researched the possibilities and I found that wind turbines were the solution.
Fast forward to 2014, and Helensburgh features at the top end of the scale on The Scottish Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation. Our town has a food bank, and it is used. Who would ever have thought that a town like Helensburgh would ever have such challenges? When I started this back in 2009 I did not know this. Now I do and so do your community councillors, which is why they have backed Helensburgh Community Wind Farm. The need for a Common Good Fund is greater than ever.
Helensburgh Community Wind Farm is for 25 years. In that time we expect it will earn in excess of £4m for the community. We are talking about £100,000 PA in the first years before it ramps up. We will be generating our own community funds from which we can access match funding pound for pound. This is all money which could be used for capital projects as well as helping these who need it. In short, we are talking about Direct Benefit to the community, hard cash in the community’s own bank account.
The Community Wind Farm’s detractors are implying that they have only just discovered that the turbines will be visible. The truth is that from the very start visibility was a given, freely admitted and always addressed by those of us behind the proposals.
When the Helensburgh Advertiser asked for local people’s opinions, one woman summed it up: if the financial benefits for the town outweigh the appearance of the wind farm then she was for the idea. That is what this is all about: creating a fund of money which can be used for the benefit of the people who live here.
At the end of the 25 year term, we will return the land to as near to its current state as possible – unless the new generation of Helensburgh folk wish otherwise.
In the meantime, this current generation should grasp this opportunity and let Helensburgh change for the better, for the sake of both our town and our community.
Ian Fraser, Helensburgh Renewables