Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The wind industry & small communities.

All over the British Isles and Scotland in particular, big business is approaching small communities to encourage them to have wind power stations built in their community. They pick off small communities, one by one to get what they want: the industrialisation of the countryside.

The first chance the public get to air their views is usually at the community council meeting. At this meeting the developers typically send along four or five members of the development team which normally includes two people who never seem to have a job description apart from ‘Developer’ but who seem to pop up at similar meetings throughout Scotland, a Community Benefits Officer, a Community Consultation Consultant and a Planning Officer (from the developer)

The meeting is usually rammed with local folk who would never normally turn out for these meetings and they all want answers.

Of course, they don’t get any. That’s not the job of these five representatives from the developer. Their job is to smooth down any objection and gloss over any gritty details.

One such person who seems to crop up a quite a bit is Jennifer Gascoigne of nPower Renewables. She appeared recently on STV as the public face of the developer for Allt Duine Wind Power Station slap bang next to the Cairngorm National Park Boundary.

She also visited Kilninver and Kilmelford Community Council in February 2010 to represent the wind farm developer.

This is as good an example as any to show how the developer operates when attempting to pick off a small community.

At the meeting it was explained that the only planning issue they would be discussing was that of the wind turbines. Of course, the connection to the national grid (the chain of pylons required), the change of use of the local yacht harbour to industrial harbour to take delivery of the turbines and all the borrow pits required for the haul roads and foundations of the turbines were separate planning issues and so could not be discussed.

Of course this is ridiculous and that is what the developers like. They pick the communities off bit by bit and so decisions are asked to be made without all the facts being available.

The minutes from this particular meeting are enlightening; You can see how the developer works. The only fact that the developers team are clear about is the community benefit: They dangle a carrot of £2000 per year per megawatt generated. All others details are skimmed over.

I have pasted the relevant part of the minutes of the meeting below:

“6.  Proposed Wind Farm at Raera: 

Attending for this part of the meeting were representatives from NPower and associates as detailed:

Karen Fox- Developer.
Jennifer Gascoigne- Developer.
Katy Woodington- Community Benefits Officer.
Gary Parker- Community Consultation Consultant                                                 Gareth Mills- Planning Officer.

The application for the proposed wind farm is now in and the period for opinions to be lodged with the Council closes in 2 days time. From the telephone call survey (detailed below in Planning Applications) made a compilation of questions had been presented to NPower and they had produced a handout detailing the questions and answers.
Copies of this handout were distributed at the meeting with a copy being held with the Community Council for reference.  Questions leading on from the discussion that followed the exploring of this handout and new questions were dealt with by the NPower team and also led on to lengthy discussion within the room.  The main areas of concern were –

1. The application for the turbines is the application that has been lodged but this does not include the proposed jetty that will be required in Loch Melfort for the turbines to be transported to or the power lines that will be required to remove the generated electricity from the turbines.  It was felt that it is difficult to consider the development when not all the information is present regarding all 3 facets because they will be proposed as 3 separate planning applications. Regarding the proposed jetty, Karen Fox pointed out that this is the subject of a Scoping Exercise happening at present so there is information within the public domain about this. Appendices to the application also detail alternative proposed routes to Taynuilt (likely point for introduction to the grid) on wooden poles carrying overhead lines.

2. Effects on Health.

3. Traffic and transportation.

4. Height of turbines and visual impact. It would appear that the proposed height is higher than those in the pictorial montages.

5. Effects on local tourist industry.

6. Felling of some ancient woodland and quantity commercial forestry removal.

7. Noise levels during construction period.

8. Community Benefits.

Karen Fox, on the issue of height of turbines suggested that if individuals care to supply her with the name or location of a wind farm they are familiar with she will ascertain the heights of those turbines for comparative purposes. She also left with the Community Council a copy of the Seil Community’s Question and Answer handout. Also issued was a leaflet re Community Benefits Packages.  NPower broadly state they work along with Argyll and Bute Councils Policy of £2,000 per megawatt installation on an annual basis for the duration of the wind farm.

7.  Planning Applications:
1. Proposed wind farm at Raera Forest comprising 15 turbines of height 125m.
The Community Council, as decided at the last Community Council meeting, have conducted a straw poll of the community.  It was intended to obtain an up to date copy of the Electoral Register to do this, however, as a Community Council we are only entitled to a copy of the unabridged Electoral Register for election of Community Councillors.  For our purpose we could only purchase the edited version that many people opt out of which would have been inaccurate for our task.  It was decided to use the Kilninford Phone Directory as this was deemed to be the most accurate representation of our community.  People were contacted by telephone, with messages left where possible and recalls done where no answer gained.   It was acknowledged that this was not a standardised or all encompassing survey as only 55% of the community had been able to be made contact with by the 5 members of the Community Council completing the survey.

The intention was to try and gauge the general feeling of the community at large for the Community Council to see if there was a strong feeling for or against this proposed development. Of the 168 people whose opinion was gained the following results were obtained (the electorate as of 01.04.09 was 305)

For = 63
Against = 74
Don’t know = 31

Lengthy discussion ensued as to how best use this information accepting its limitations.  Of those present in the hall the majority opinion was against the proposal, with 19 people stating they had not been contacted and of those 1 was for and 18 against the proposal.  Again, discussion ensued as to how best to utilise this information in a valid way.

It was decided that AM would write to the Planning Department listing the areas of concern regarding the development as discussed in the previous part of the meeting.
Cllr MacDonald added it was useful to strenuously comment on the 3 elements of the development as separate planning applications causing difficulty in considering the overall proposal.
Cllr MacKay clarified that should more than 20 individual objections be received then an automatic public consultation process would begin. He added that, the exception of himself, due to Planning Committee obligations, the Local Councillors can be petitioned and asked for support and advice on planning issues.

Cllr Robertson commented she felt the Community Council had endeavoured to consult with the community and encouraged the community as individuals to write with their concerns.”


But Kilninver and Kilmelford Community Council have a pretty switched-on Planning Officer in Antoinette Mitchell. This is the letter she wrote to the Planning Office:


Kilninver and Kilmelford Community Council
c/o  'Barochreal'
Kilninver, By Oban, Argyll  PA34   4UT

February 10th. 2010
Application No.   09/01874/PP

Dear Ms. Knox,
As the Planning Officer for the Kilninver and Kilmelford Community Council it is incumbent upon me to write on behalf of the community council to register the communities concerns/objections to the above application.  I would like to thank you for extending that period of registration thus enabling me to present the views of the two village communities as fairly as possible.

In an attempt to alert everyone in our community and invite their comments, a flyer was put into the Kilninford Newsletter/Magazine before Christmas 09,  (this is received freely by all households in the community),  inviting people to contact their local councillors with their opinions as to the proposed erection of a wind farm in the Raera Forest.  This met with a number of phone calls, but not a sufficient number to gain a good enough general feeling on which to base this letter.  So those of the councillors who were able to took it upon themselves to contact members of the community either face to face or by phone.  The result of this poll was that 166 people were contacted, over half the community, of which 31 had no opinion either way, 63 were for the wind farm and 74 were against.

On the evening of the 9th. February at the bi-monthly community council meeting, 5 representatives of 'RWE npower'  attended and answered questions put to them by the community.  I enclose a copy of some of those questions and their answers on which a number of our concerns/objections are based.  Apart from the 5 npower representatives, 6 community councillors and 3 Argyll and Bute Councillors, there were 41 members of the community in attendance.  The vast majority of those in attendance certainly over 80% were against the project and wished me to register their collective objections.  It would also appear that  those supporting the Wind Farm are understandably and mostly those least affected by it.  However, I think it would be fair to say that some of  the objectors would not necessarily object to all wind farms but are objecting to this one for the reasons I will be giving below.  In a similar way there are supporters of the project that have some real concerns about this wind farm as described in it's present application.

The concerns/objections listed below are not in order of importance but just some of the many questions that the community generally feel have not been addressed satisfactorily by npower as yet.

1.  The majority of land in Argyll and Bute suitable for the erection of wind farms has already been allocated.  It would now appear that the renewable companies are trying to encroach upon the constrained areas.  Raera Forest is a constrained area and one of Panoramic Quality.  Should permission for Raera be granted it then lessens objections to other constrained areas being developed not only for WF's but other
projects, and has made a number of people question if anywhere is 'safe' from development? Guidelines for these areas were obviously put in place for good reason, it makes people nervous if they see 'major companies' being allowed to flout those guidelines.

2. Originally we were told by npower at their exhibition in August 2009, that they proposed  to 'keyhole' the turbines  in Raera Forest.  The application now states that 720 hectares of forest is to be removed, as well as some ancient woodland.  Even some of those strongly in favour of this project are alarmed by this prospect. Whereas we appreciate that this is a mature forest and possibly ready for felling, to be removing this amount of forest so quickly, in less than 18 months, with no intentions of replanting is unacceptable for countless reasons, better addressed by SEPA, The Forestry Commission and the RSPB.  We acknowledge that the Forestry Commission also object to this application in it's present form. Forests  have a very significant role
when it comes to tackling climate change and we believe the Scottish Government's Forest strategy is to expand the woodland cover of Scotland from 17% to 25% over the 21st century.  This felling of Raera without the routine re-planting does not address the Scottish Government's 'Policy on control of Woodland Removal' and the majority of us find this unacceptable.

3. Another Government Guideline which 'npower' seem happy to ignore is the Scottish Planning Policy PAN 45 which advices that all dwellings both multi-settlements and single dwellings should be outside a 2Km radius of the WF.  This was suggested for a 20meggawatt wind farm.  The proposed Raera WF is 45megawatts which one would naturally suppose would increase this distance.

However, there are 8 dwellings, possible more well within the 2Km radius of 8 of the 15 turbines, one only 1.1Km away from 2 of the turbines, and a whole village and Primary School within 3Km radius.  This 2Km radius has obviously been ignored. This was an issue hotly debated at the meeting on the 9th, as presumably this distance is considered necessary for health reasons.  It is interesting to note that a number of European countries now are only considering erecting off shore WF's not onshore for health reasons.  When n'power was asked about the studies on Wind Farm Syndrome, and there is a lot of scientific and independent research being carried out by Universities  both here at home and abroad, the answer we were given is that there was 'no real proof that wind farm's caused any health problems'.  Surely it is not for the public to prove that WF's can adversely affect people's and animal's health, but for Wind Farm developers to prove that they don't. I know one cannot prove a negative but we need substantially more reassurances.  So for those of us so close to these turbines health issues remains a very real concern.

4. At the exhibition in August 09.  We were shown a number of photos of Wind Farms, but none of these showed any turbines of the height proposed at Raera Forest.  At the time I personally asked that the community  be given photos of 125m turbines, as many people find it difficult to imagine this size.  This has not been done.  We are told that these 125m or 360ft. turbines would be the biggest in the UK and are among some of the biggest in Europe.  Twice the height of those at Beinn Ghlas, which most of us are familiar with and 4 times the height of Lismore Lighthouse.  This is a real issue for a number of the objectors who may find the project more acceptable if the turbines were only the height of those at Beinn Ghlas.  This could then, maybe, negate some of the problems, certainly some of the visual ones.

5.  Question 5 on the enclosed sheet refers to the often vague semantics of the application, which to one who has read all the statements appears to rely upon a lot of 'guesstimation'.   When this was discussed at the meeting we were told that of course the representatives there had not written the document but that it was given over to 'experts' in the field of composing such 'tomes'.  As none of these were naturally available for comment it again left most of the audience feeling unhappy about many issues.

6.  Whereas most of those interested in the proposed WF appreciate that the problem of transmitting the electricity to  Taynuilt has to be a separate application, nonetheless we find it difficult to separate the two as one is dependent upon the other.  There are some people who would be more inclined to support the wind farm but object because of the thought of hundreds more poles and wires stretched across our glorious
countryside, and particularly if the chosen route happens to be the iconic and as yet unspoilt Braes of Lorn.

Likewise while appreciating again that a separate application has to be made for the possible erection of a Pier at Loch Melfort, clearly a different site, again it is difficult to consider all the implications of the WF without considering this too. This would change a Yacht Haven into a commercial port, as it would be permanent, and a lot of other
people would find this unacceptable, even if they support the WF.  Again I appreciate it is a separate application and should not be commented upon here, but you can understand the community's frustration and their even greater confusion on learning that separate applications will have to be made for the borrow pits??  Some people are inclined to feel that this is neither necessary and perhaps an 'unconventional' way of
n'power trying to manipulate the outcome of the project in their favour, as well as presumably involving the community in the study of yet more applications with requests to register opinions.  It makes one lose the will to live!

7.  Another very heated debate has been the noise implications for which there is very little evidence that the general public can understand to assure them that they will not be affected.  A number of people including myself have stood under turbines and had a conversation, but this has been a brief interlude during the day. At night, when most of our world in this area is silent the constant thrum of these enormous turbines has
been likened to a Jumbo jet taking off at source, this based upon the decibels and tables produced by n'power themselves.  Whereas this may be alarmist it remains evident that for this size turbine the nontechnical/scientific amongst us have no real assurances that for those living within a few kilometres of them noise and subsonic noise won't be a real issue.

8.  The sheer size of these turbines poses a very real concern for all the objectors and some of the supporters when they consider the visual implications upon this glorious county of Argyll.  The A816 is a scenic route and a much used tourist route down to Kilmartin Glen, especially Glen Gallian and the Oude dam area where in the applicants own statement 8.88 of the Technical Report the turbines 'would cause a prominent
change in the character and quality of the view.' For many of those living and visiting Argyll for the scenery this is unacceptable.

9.  However, altruistic renewable companies would like to appear to be, they are businesses and into renewables to make money and to gain their government certificate which allows them to operate.  Their prime concern is not the planet or CO2 emissions and the answer to Q8, in the light of other independent studies is vastly different.

The fact that none of the electricity produced would benefit the communities of K and K, that the WF affects, but is being sold on to England, does little to add to it's support.  If the local community was to receive 'green' or 'free electricity from this project then doubtless it would have many more supporters.  The so called 'monetary' enhancement that the communities could be offered will always fall far short of the
enormous profits the developers and the landowners would receive from such a project, and a number of locals object to the scarring of their landscape to provide England with electricity and to the lining of the pockets of non local investors.

As the Turbines are produced outside the UK and the Towers in England the local economy will receive very little boost from local employment and that only over the construction period.  Many feel this will not compensate for the loss of income that could be felt from the possible decline in tourists.  Little was said to re-assure us that the tourist industry won't be affected even if only marginally by the WF.  Many supporters of WF's don't choose to holiday near or in site of them and this area is very dependent on Tourism.  It is interesting to note that none of the Council's promotional videos that show the wonderful views of Argyll shows a wind farm!

10.  As yet n'power cannot tell us whether they are extracting north or south. So which village will have the 44-52 HGV movements a day for the 18 month construction period and the noise and C02 pollution accompanying those movements.  Whatever they decide I think all the community both for and against this project have very, very real concerns as to how the A816 is ever going to cope with this additional traffic movement, clearly it won't.  Although at the meeting they have said that they would make the Kilmelford Village Bridge suitable to take the width, weight and length of the enormous turbine lorries they are not prepared to do anything to the bridge at Oude dam.  At the moment we fail to see how this can possibly be negotiated and apparently n'power are waiting for the council to re-locate this bridge, a project I believe has now been put off until 2013 for financial reasons?  The whole torturous route of the A816 from Loch Feochan through to Kilmelford is a dangerous road at the best of times with all these additional HGV movements, the community is gravely concerned about the number of serious/ fatal accidents that could happen.

From the last 3 pages you can see that there are a  number of 'real' concerns that the community of Kilninver and Kilmelford have about this proposed Wind Farm in Raera Forest.  In general the feeling seems to be that there are still so many unanswered questions and uncertainties that as it stands at the moment the application should be rejected.  However, if there is a public meeting at sometime a number of other questions may be raised and hopefully answered, as the above are just a few of the questions that I have been asked most often and that I feel are of predominant importance to our communities.  Again I reiterate that there are a number of people who support the general idea of Wind Farms but not this one mainly because of the site, the size of the towers and their proximity to the community of Kilninver.

I thank you again for extending the period of time to allow us to register these concerns and objections with you and thank you for your patience in considering them.

I remain,
Yours sincerely

Antoinette N.M. Mitchell,     BA, ACP, TEFL. 
(Planning Officer for Kilninver and Kilmelford Community Council)

BUT: However good the local planning officer is, if it is a large windfarm and the locals say “NO,” it is then referred up to The Scottish Government and invariably, they say “Yes”

So, the planning system is totally discredited. And the local communities’ lives are trashed. Jenny Gascoigne continues onto her next target and the developers will make millions in profit.

All this is paid for by the chap paying his electricity bill. That’s you and me, that is.


  1. Money.
    Power (over others).

    These are what I consider to be the reasons behind all of these applications.

    The most significant of those is Money.

    In order for one person to make money it has to come from someone else. There is always a winner and a loser. Take money out of the equation and suddenly things become clear. Things become seen for what they truly are and windfarms, along with many other developments cease to make sense.

    I wonder if the planning process ought to consider excluding financial benefits before giving approval?

    Just a thought.

  2. ought to consider excluding financial benefits before giving approval?
    It never will be Carl or they would fail.
    As would to discuss the complete issue.

    I rest your case.

  3. Hi Al,
    Merry Christmas.
    I saw this first hand when i was in Greece last year.
    A very beautiful fishing harbour and small holiday resort with a 12 month community had huge ships coming in disgorging turbines and the rest of the equipment. The ship was from Spain.
    The unloading was noisy and needed low loaders in vast quantities. Everything needed fuel including the ship so there were tankers everywhere.
    The local football pitches and tennis courts were taken over as long stay storage areas.
    Massive new dirt and dusty roads were made straight from the village to all the new turbine sites which then had cement mixer trucks working day and night passing through the village every 1/2 hour or so.
    And lots more .
    The thing is that this area was a typical Scottish village sized place where tourism was the biggest pay check for the local people.
    The planners got their way and the locals were left with all the anger from the tourists. As anyone reading this can see it was a pretty awful place to have a holiday and i am quite sure that none of this was envisaged by the residents.

  4. The wind industry has the planning process working completely to its advantage. Its opposition has probably never had to deal with planning issues before and so have to learn from scratch, whereas the developers are a smooth, slick operation who barely give out any information - certainly never the whole truth.

    Most of the larger developers are global operations and have all the resources that they need to completely smash opposition. The opposition, however, have to fund the fight against each windfarm themselves. The irony is that we actually fund the developers costs in increased electricity charges.

  5. Merry Xmas and Happy 2012 (though that sound somehow hollow given the topic of this post...).

    Just as a confirmation of your point about the Scottish Reporters overturning local democracy decisions, here's a link from a report in today's Dundee Courier:

    The proposed wind farm near the Cleish Hills is a typical case of what we've had to go through in the Lowlands. Areas of fantastic beauty, much enjoyed by the locals for a quick day out, and one by one they're being taken over.

    The wording of the decision by the Reporter are phenomenally worrying:


    ''There is a firm planning policy support at both national and council level for the development of renewable energy, of which wind power is a major provider," the report stated.

    ''The majority of wind turbine developments are located in rural locations and are generally considered an appropriate form of development in the countryside."

    He added that the Cleish Hills special landscape area was an area of constraint for wind energy schemes but Scottish planning policy indicated that in such areas there were no blanket restrictions.


    Interestingly enough, a couple of weeks ago a wind farm was refused permission not far from there because it would be visible from Gleneagles!

    So, if you're rich enough, you're spared the ignominy of the turbines. Nice one.

  6. Just noticed i spelt "Pay Cheque" incorrectly. Thanks for not mentioning it! Ha.

  7. AndyB: That just about sums it up. An area of constraint means absolutely sod-all, unless you have National Views to consider - for example, from Gleneagles or the A9.

    The politicians should be ashamed of themselves.
    But they have no conscience, so they won't be.

  8. AlanR: It's the message, Al, not the spelling!

  9. Rare footage of a "Climate scientist" at work....

  10. Two more approvals:

    The Lewis extension is standard practice: put an application for x turbines; reduce to x - n to gain approval; apply for extension by n turbines. And presto, you get what you wanted in the first place.

    I watched Cameron McNeish Coast to Coast episode of the Adventure Show on the BBC iPlayer last night. A bit sad to see that Cameron had to tone down (to the point of annihilation) his previously strong views about turbines to get a programme on the BBC. At one point he said "we'll get used to windmills like we did to plantation forestry". Then in conversation with Jim Crumley (another usually outspoken critic of turbines) they skirted around the elephant in the room by referring to "reports" (i.e. the JMT ones) that the percentage of wild land is decreasing. 'Don't mention ze turbines' was clearly the slogan for the ensuing conversation.

    Disappointing but not unexpected, I suppose.

  11. This might interest you, Alan:

  12. Merry Christmas to all. A view not shared by Fergus Ewing who approved one wind farm at Glenfiddich and an extenion on Lewis to a wind farm that has yet to be constructed. What a lovely Christmas Present for those that now have to look forward to yet another inefficient wind factory.
    What a nice gentleman???

  13. The less said about Fergus Ewing, the better. And we thought Jim Mather was bad...

    Anyway, the JMT have responded to the two recent approvals:

    And talking of news management, there was this hilarious piece on the BBC Scotland website a while ago, prominently advertised by the headline "Scottish Weather Warnings Hit Record High":

    If you read carefully, you notice that the Met Office introduced the new weather warning system back in April. So the December "record" refers to a 9-month period of time!!

    Also, anyone with a good memory and access to weather records can testify that the new system by the Met Office is absolutely risible. They're now issuing weather warnings at the drop of a hat for weather conditions that would have hardly merited a passing mention on your average Scottish winter (not that there is any such thing, of course).

    It would be laughable if it wasn't so Orwellian. And obviously it all helps massaging public opinion towards accepting more and more useless turbine plants.

  14. Andy - The BBC and the Met Office between them are in a sad state of affairs. They have no credibility left. if they don't issue a weather warning and a terrier is stuck in a snow drift overnight 300 yards from a Morrisons supermarket everybody (the Red-tops) whinges. If they warn people that their terriers could be stranded near Morrisons we all whinge at them for wasting our time.

    Frankly - no one gives a damn as their statistics are made up anyway just to cover their ample back-sides.

    Scotland has always had loads of weather. And will continue to do so.

    I blame the wind-mills, myself - they make all the wind....

  15. Hi All and a Happy New Year to you

    I have recently sent Mr Ewing some information regarding the dubious tactics of developers. This was following a meeting I had with him and Stuart Young from Caithness Windfarm Information Forum in October. He has written to me and said that he takes what I have sent him very seriously and will be investigating. Time will tell if he investigates enough. I would suggest that he shouldn't be approving anything unless he is absolutely sure the developers have been truthful and open at their exhibitions and in their literature.I can only encourage anyone who has knowledge of wind farms, approved or in planning, where the information given to the public is misleading or downright untrue, to report it to Mr Ewing and name and shame the developers. If we don't tell him he will say he didn't know. I would be grateful if anyone does write to him regarding particular developments that they let us know which they are, so it can be followed up. I am happy to forward the information to him if anyone prefers that. Thanks

  16. Alan, I know you already had a brush with the Plod over a certain coffin... but given what has happened to this bloke, your blog may now qualify for renewed interest from high up:

    (security word for this post: 'defies'---spooky or what)

  17. Thanks for that Andy: I have put it up on FB, G+ and Twitter.

    Incredible, really - Looks like Huhne has picked on the wrong bloke this time. What with this and his ex-wife allegedly taking his speeding points, the shit should be sacked.

    (ooh - Did I just call a cabinet minister a "shit"? Yes - And it fits him well.)

  18. Hi there, can i ask where you heard about an industrial pier being created in Loch Melfort? I've just bought a house on the Loch and currently worried about the Raera windfarm development.

    1. Hello "Anonymous"
      It is mentioned specifically in the letter from Antoinette Mitchell, the Planning officer in her letter to MS Knox of the Planning Office, reproduced in my post, above.

      It will be the subject of a separate planning application. The Wind Farm Developers are cunning blighters.


Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!