NAW Letter to Scotland’s Politicians

Re: PROPOSED ARDTARAIG WINDFARM / PLANNING APPLICATION 18/01516/PP

  1. INTRODUCTION

My name is Reg MacDonald and I am the volunteer co-ordinator for NAW (No Ardtaraig Windfarm). NAW is a grass roots group of local citizens who oppose the above noted project.

We believe, on a number of grounds, that this particular project would be in breach of Scottish Planning Policy.

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the details and implications of this project and to ask for your support in objecting to this proposed windfarm development.

  1. BACKGROUND INFORMATION

  1. The Applicant is Ardtaraig Windfarm Ltd and their Planning Application 18/01516/PP was filed on August 3, 2018.

  1. The proposal is for 7, 448 foot high wind turbines occupying approximately one-third of the site at an existing elevation of 350 feet, which is to be situated adjacent to the designated Kyles of Bute National Scenic Area.

 

  1. Ardtaraig Windfarm Ltd is a corporate subsidiary 50% owned by Infinergy ltd which in turn is a wholly owned subsidiary of AFR Wind Assets B.V., which in turn is a wholly owned subsidiary of AFR Investments B.V. Infinergy Ltd paid out £23,707,554 in dividends as at Dec 31, 2016, and £12,840,878 as at Dec 31, 2017 (Ref. Registrar of Companies).

 

  1. Infinergy Ltd is considered as an ‘aggressive’ windfarm developer/operator often building, flipping and extending windfarms. It regularly appeals democratic decisions made by local Councils and aggressively lobbies government officials (Ref. Scottish Lobbying Register) to develop into ‘wild lands’.

 

  1. Ardtaraig Estate is a 15,000 + acre estate bordering both the East and West shores of upper Loch Striven. It is owned by family trusts of which there are in excess of 20 beneficiaries.

 

  1. On Feb 28, 2017 the Argyll & Bute Council issued its statutory Request for Screening and Scoping Report (Ref 16/03257/SCRSCO). This report was of an extremely adverse nature in relation to the proposed project.

This Screening and Scoping Report specifically stated:

“I would highlight the various concerns raised by the consultees and would strongly recommend that they are influential in your decision on whether or not to proceed with EIA preparation and the submission of a planning application”.

The report goes on to raise key issues in relation to landscape and visual aspects, and secondly, ornithological interests. It also speaks of the cumulative impact of multiple sites. It states:

“It is considered that this proposal suffers from significant shortcomings in respect of these issues”.

It further states:

“Indeed, the proposal for a wind farm in this sensitive location, raises particular natural heritage issues, which may be difficult to overcome. SNH’s initial advice, is that there is a high risk of this not being a suitable site for development of this type and scale. Furthermore it is therefore possible that they would object to this proposal. RSPB Scotland have also advised that in their view, a large scale wind farm is unlikely to be feasible in this location. At present the MoD object due to the potential impact on low flying and the JRC also object due to a potential adverse impact on links detailed in their response”.

“A spatial framework for wind farms and wind turbine developments over 50 meters high in line with Scottish Planning Policy has been adopted as Supplementary Guidance (December 2016). This identifies areas where wind farms will be acceptable; areas of significant protection; and areas which may have the potential for wind farm development. It may be of interest for you to note that the site in question is located predominantly within Group 2 area – Areas of Significant Protection”.

“I would also draw your attention to the ‘Argyll & Bute Landscape Wind Energy Capacity Study’ March 2012, which is a material consideration in the Council’s consideration of wind farm applications. The proposal would be located within Landscape Character Type 1 – Steep Ridgeland and Mountains and the study concludes that there is no scope to accommodate larger typologies within this landscape without significant effects occurring on a number of key sensitivity criteria”.

Finally, it states:

“Should you decide to pursue an application despite the foregoing, we will assist you as far as we are able. However, I feel that it is only fair that we should make clear at the prospects of this development being supported at Officer level, on the basis of the information available to date and the views expressed by the committees thus far, do not appear favourable”.

  • Despite such considerations, Infinergy and Ardtaraig Estate proceeded with their application.

  1. It should be noted that in 2016 the Argyll & Bute Council refused an application by the Col-Glen Development Trust (“CGDT”) for two community owned wind turbines, of a lesser height and visual impact, to be located adjacent to the National Scenic Area (Ref: 15/02060/PP). Many of the reasons given in this decision would apply even more so in this case considering the greater size of the project and its greater degradation to the landscape and impact on the National Scenic Area.

  1. REASONS FOR OPPOSING THIS WINDFARM

  • We oppose this windfarm for several reasons, the most important of which, from a legal and planning perspective, relate to the proposed windfarm’s contravention of Scottish Planning Policies (“SPP”) and associated regulations and rules.

  1. It will have major negative landscape and visual impacts, contrary to SPP;

  1. It will be inconsistent with SPP in relation to the Natural Environment considerations, Ecological Impact, and Ornithological Impact (we have resident protected species including: eagles; hen harrier; osprey and black grouse).

  1. Other issues relate to – the ecological damage to environment which will be significant, as this wild land area will see the extraction of over 100,000 tonnes of rock for roadways and platforms; miles of cable trenching; the construction of ancillary structures and buildings; and the excavation of over 160,000 cubic meters of peat. Such desecration CANNOT be mitigated. We are totally supportive of the Kyles of Bute Scenic Area Protection Group which also takes the position that such a development will degrade the National Scenic Area in a substantive way.

  1. The negative effect on our development of a sustainable marine / land / tourism and associated business and investment opportunities (the Argyll Economic Forum Report sees tourism as a critical aspect of securing our economic future Ref. Feb 23, 2016);

  1. The negative effect on the asset value / development opportunities for community owned land adjacent to the proposed site;

  1. The negative effect on the health of local residents from both audible sound and infrasound (inaudible), the effects of which have now been proven to give rise to stress related diseases (Ref. World Health Organisation Environmental Noise Guidelines – GWPF 10/10/2018) and potentially giving rise to legal claims.

  1. The negative impact on the asset value of homes/properties depending on their proximity, giving rise to re-valuations (loss of property tax revenue) and legal claims for loss of value.

  1. We believe that the rejection by Council of Planning Application (15/02060/PP) 24108/2016), which considered the erection of two smaller wind turbines, adjacent to the NSA, sets a valid and legal precedent in relation to the proposed project.

  1. A full legal objection will be filed by NAW shortly which will deal, in detail, the contraventions to SPP, which this proposed project would give rise to.

 

  1. It should be noted that meteorological data, specific to the location in question, has not been obtained by the applicant. Infinergy Ltd made application (Ref 17/02949/PP) to erect a meteorological mast on Nov 14, 2017, however no such mast was erected. We believe that notwithstanding the availability of non-site data, such a project on this magnitude would require appropriate due diligence.

  1. Scottish National Heritage (“SNH”), a statutory consultee has now formally objected to this project (filed 15/10/2018)

SNH states:

“Scotland is renowned for its outstanding scenery. National Scenic Areas are nationally important areas “of outstanding scenic value in a national context” (Planning (Scotland) Act 2006) and where an area is designated as a NSA, “… special attention is to be paid to the desirability of safeguarding or enhancing its character or appearance.” NSAs represent the finest examples of Scotland’s scenery, highly valued by residents and visitors alike. The impacts of Ardtaraig wind farm on the Kyles of Bute NSA would compromise the objectives of the designation and the overall integrity of the NSA.

The Wind farm’s location and scale in close proximity to this relatively small NSA would adversely affect the appreciation of the special qualities by affecting their landscape context and wider landscape setting. Given the small extent of this NSA, the scale of the turbines is also likely to significantly detract from key views from within and of the NSA. The proposal will introduce a large prominent wind energy development into the views and setting of the NSA, appearing incongruous on the skyline at the northern end of the NSA. There is currently no noticeable wind energy development in this nationally important landscape and the adjacent uplands provide an open and undeveloped skyline and setting for many highly scenic views and coastal panoramas. In our opinion, the proposal would result in a significant adverse effect on the special qualities of the NSA and will undermine integrity.

This proposal will have an adverse effect on the special qualities and integrity of the Kyles of Bute National Scenic Area (NSA). We do not consider that these adverse impacts can be mitigated. We therefore object to the proposal”.

  1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
  • We, at NAW, are strong proponents of renewable energy provided that any renewable energy projects are consistent with SPP and local democracy. We believe that truly sustainable, and efficient renewable energy projects will be focused on tidal, hydro and solar technologies.

  • As a result of our campaign research and data collection, a number of issues have emerged which we believe merit your consideration as our elected representatives:

  1. Planning Policy

  • SPP – there are a number of issues to note:

“Frontloading” In relation to windfarm developments, windfarm applicants have extended time periods in which to prepare fairly complicated applications, (particularly when Environmental Impact Assessments are required) and once their planning application is filed – the communities affected have extremely limited time periods in which to respond and limited financial resources with which to oppose such applications. This is patently unfair and needs to be changed with specific statutory guidelines.

“Appeals” the appeal process is and continues to be weighted in favour of planning applicants to the detriment of affected communities. Needless to say, there should be either equal rights to appeal, or alternatively, no rights of appeal.

We note that four in ten appeals by windfarm developers are successful. Since 2002, 250 windfarm applications, refused by Councils, were approved by the Scottish Government.

Such statistics are an indictment of either the existing SPP framework, or an affront to local democracy. By way of an analogy – if 40% of criminal convictions were overturned on appeal it would reflect a non-functioning criminal justice system.

“Planning Democracy” it is important to note that the adherence to the Rule of Law is an essential element in any democracy. We are all obligated, as citizens, to adhere to Scottish Planning Policies. In the case of windfarms (and indeed other developments), despite the application of Scottish Planning Policies, by local Councils, such decisions are now being routinely overruled. When a local council decision, based on the application of Scottish Planning Policy, is overturned by senior levels of government, it makes a mockery of the Rule of Law.

As Tom Devine states; “A colossal imbalance is in the process weighted against the democratic rights of people and communities”. [Ref. Tom Devine: Minsters Must End Scotland’s Planning Scandal (The National, October 24, 2018). This statement applies equally to windfarm development].

“Extensions” Under current SPP windfarms can be easily extended without the normal planning safeguards being applied. This allows for additional windfarms without the proper due diligence, or community representation, to occur. It is an affront to a transparent and fair planning system.

“Not fit for purpose” the regulatory regime in relation to planning policy needs to be constantly revised in order to keep up with the new technologies and their impact. This is not happening. As larger wind turbines are becoming the norm, new health and environmental safeguards must be developed. The damaging health effects of infrasound are greater with respect to the long term turbines.

“Decommissioning” decommissioning requirements are essentially non-existent.

While the above ground structures can be removed, the sub ground platforms remain in situ, which will continue to contaminate water sources for years – representing an environmental time bomb. Other European jurisdictions require the removal of all structures whether above or below ground.

“Enforcement” Where windfarms have been approved, built and made

operable and complaints often arise in relation to noise and associated health impacts, such formal complaints are not being properly addressed. Planning permission is often granted but with conditions in relation to noise levels. If such noise levels are exceeded mitigation is required. We have documentary evidence of the reluctance of local Councils to enforce such mitigation. A local Council (Aberdeenshire) advised us that they do not have the resources and time to prepare such statutory required reports upon which Reporters are required to rely upon. Reporters are therefore making decisions on appeal cases (either intentionally or unintentionally), without due regard to such information.

  1. Environmental Damage

  • Just because a project is described as ‘renewable’ does not mean it is ‘green’. There are windfarm projects being developed that are causing significant environmental and ecological damage, to the extent that there is actually no net CO2 emission reduction.

  • The ‘flow lands’ of Caithness have now been permanently damaged as the CO2 ‘sinks’ (which peat bogs represent), are being destroyed as the natural water flows are disrupted by the huge turbine foundations and road works. Thousands upon thousands of tons of rock are being dumped on the flow lands, which then sink, disrupting the hydrology. These flow lands will now dry out with the commensurate release of CO2.

  • The ecological damage to wild life habitat in Scotland is gaining pace and the negative effect on both flora and fauna will be irreversible where these windfarm developments take place.

  • We note that the proposed Glendye Windfarm is even being opposed by the Green Party – this trend will continue as even the most ardent supporters of ‘green’ energy become more aware of the significant ecological damage which can occur with windfarms.

  1. Damage to Health

  • It is now established beyond a reasonable doubt that windfarms can and do have serious health impacts on human well-being (Ref. World Health Organisation / Environmental Noise Guidelines – – GWPF 10/10/2018).

  • There is no doubt that litigation in relation to this issue will be a growing trend. While, like the tobacco companies, the wind farm developers continue to deny such impacts, the evidence is now incontrovertible.

  1. Damage to Home/Property Values

  • Again, there is an existing and growing body of evidence that the proximity to a windfarm can impact the value of your home (including a 10 year study by the London School of Economics).

  • A case in point: An O.A.P. couple recently had two wind turbines constructed at the statutory but minimal distance to their home. Not only do they now suffer negative health impacts from flicker, audible sound, and infrasound, but also their home has dropped in value by over 30%. They are taking legal advice in relation to their council rates and loss of value and are in discussions with their local council. This trend will continue.

  • Any legal claim, must be based on evidence and the body of evidence in relation to such issues is growing daily. Again, it is only a matter of time, before the floodgates of litigation open.

  • Most importantly, and I believe we can all agree on this, to deprive a citizen of either their health, or their home, or value of their home, and where they have no recourse, is against all the rules of natural justice. This is happening in Scotland as we speak.

  1. Unfettered Development

  • Why are so many applications for windfarms being submitted? The simple reason is two-fold. The guaranteed 20-25 year returns (whether electricity is produced or not ie. constraint payments) along with the current 20% electricity tariff (passed on indirectly to all windfarm operations) means that as a business proposition, investment in windfarms is very lucrative. So significant are the investment returns that the entire process is becoming corrupted at all levels.

  • As a result, we are seeing existing windfarms being extended; and windfarms being developed with portions thereof having little chance of being connected to the grid on a meaningful or timely basis.

  • A tipping point has been reached. As one senior independent planning advisor stated …. “as far as ‘sites’ are concerned the ‘low hanging’ fruit has being picked. More and more sites, whether near wild land areas, National Parks, or National Scenic areas, and Urban areas, are being selected for development and more and more citizens are becoming alarmed by what is happening”. Eventually the citizens will express their concerns politically and their voice will have to be heard. While the rural vote may never be as large as the urban vote, at some point, it can make a difference. It is neither ethical nor moral for any government to disenfranchise its citizens, regardless of where they choose to live.

  • The end should never be justified by the means. According to information available, Scotland, is well on its way to meet its ‘renewables’ targets. We all agree that new and more efficient renewable technologies are now available and will continue to become available. So the question is, at what cost to our citizens are we prepared to impose ever more windfarms?

  • Constraint payments – these payments play a huge role in the unfettered development of windfarms. They create economic gain for windfarm developers at the expense of the consumer – hence the increasing number of cases of fuel poverty as the least able to afford energy price increases are subsidising the windfarm developers. They also encourage windfarm development in unsustainable areas and particularly where wind speeds are demonstrated to be consistently too high (ie the windfarm developer gets paid regardless of energy production).

  1. Windfarm Developers’ Tactics

  • With the opposition to windfarms continuing to grow, windfarm developers have now resorted to several tactics which you should be aware of.

  • Community bribery” – Windfarm developers now typically offer money to communities to ‘buy’ their support (guidelines indicate it amounts to £5000/MW/Annum). Such funds often go direct to community trusts (which are not properly regulated) and are allegedly used for ‘community’ purposes.

Windfarm developers now offer broadband services and the opportunity by communities to participate in the ownership of the windfarm itself (knowing that most communities are unable to raise such funding).

  • In the case of the Ardtaraig Windfarm proposal, even though the project will have its primary effect on the Colintraive / Glendaruel area, they have proposed that such community funds be divided between no less than 5 Community Council areas. In our opinion, this is an unethical modus operandi to unduly influence politicians, to support their project.

These tactics are dividing our communities, as they pit local residents living in close proximity to the windfarm against those who do not.

  • Scoping Reports/E.I.A – These reports /assessments are prepared by the windfarm

developer and to say they are one-sided is an understatement. However we have

documentary evidence of tactics used to deceive the affected communities in relation to:

– Noise assessments are often selective in their nature and sound tests are taken

from selective locations which minimise the real impact.

– Photo montages – we have seen very deceptive photo montages prepared by

windfarm developers which again, falsely minimise the actual visual effects on

the landscapes.

– Again, in the case of the Ardtaraig Windfarm they have pre-empted opposition

by offering mitigation to home owners whose water supplies may be affected,

yet have failed to disclose such activities or efforts in their E.I.A. They do not

operate on a transparent basis. They have refused to provide to us, information

relating to their business plan and income projections; or the land lease with

Ardtaraig Estate.

  1. Statutory Consultees

  • We appreciate that in windfarm planning applications, several statutory consultees are required to be consulted – most of whom are funded directly, or indirectly by the Scottish Government.

  • The issue which arises with respect to their reports therefore often relates to their impartiality and objectivity. We note that with respect to the Forestry Commission, while they advised us that they do consider community views, in this case they have not. In fact their report indicated they had no objection to this project and such comment was made without having due regard to the overwhelming community objection to the project. They have also refused to disclose how much they were getting paid by the applicant for access. This conduct is neither fair, nor transparent.

  • Our communication with the RSPB indicated that they are reluctant to get meaningfully involved in any windfarm application (despite the fact we have a resident population of protected bird species, including eagles, ospreys, hen harrier and black grouse). They seem to be completely worn out by the sheer volume of windfarm applications and now rarely oppose them, notwithstanding their obligation to do so – in certain circumstances.

  1. WHAT THE PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • We note that a recent Survation Survey (Oct 2010) suggested that two-thirds of rural Scots support onshore windfarms. THIS IS NOT TRUE. We carefully reviewed the Survation methodology. In this particular case it is clear that the answers are based on the type of questions posed. In all of the questions utilised in this survey, not one question made reference to any negative impacts (either actual / or potential). For example, in order to gauge the true response in a survey ‘what if’ aspects are required, such as “If evidence indicated that windfarms negatively affect the environment, health, or home value, would you still support onshore windfarms?” We were also unable to determine what parts of rural Scotland were polled.

  • The Survation Survey commissioned by Scottish Renewables was designed specifically to promote the windfarm industry. It is standard practise to use the cover of ‘renewables’ to hide the negative effects of windfarms.

  • What we would like to share with you is our poll.

The poll data was obtained with reference to the following parameters:

  • Sample size: 800

  • Survey area – Glendaruel, Colintraive, Dunoon, Kilmun, Sandbank, Kilfinan, Tighnabruach, Inellan, Strachur.

  • Demographic – local residents (including owners/tenants)

  • Date – August 10, 2018 to October 20, 2018.

  • Data obtained – names/addresses/contact details/comments

The Results –

  • 95.4% of all residents surveyed in the survey area opposed the Ardtaraig Windfarm

  • 95% of all visitors/tourists surveyed in the survey area opposed the Ardtaraig Windfarm

  • 99% of all marine users surveyed in the survey area opposed the Ardtaraig Windfarm

  • 92% of all cyclists surveyed in the survey area using the B836 Cycling Route were opposed to the Ardtaraig Windfarm.

Additional Observations –

We believe this may reflect the fact that in Cowal they have been fighting windfarm applications for many years and they seem to be particularly well informed about them and the negative impact of such developments.

  • Such findings are so contrary to the Survation Survey that we believe the Survation Survey was fundamentally flawed not only with respect to its methodology but also its sample. Certain communities clearly have different viewpoints.

  • We wanted to see if Urban Communities had different views and conducted an Urban poll in Glasgow on 30 August 2018. The first question in the poll simply related to the ‘renewable’ energy industry as in the Survation Survey. The results indicated that 90% of the sample supported renewables – falling to 20% when asked if they would still support renewables – if there was evidence of harmful effects on local populations in relation to health, homes value, ecology, tourism, and environmental issues. This poll suggests that when urban citizens are made aware of the negative impacts of windfarms their support drops dramatically. Urban citizens are increasingly opposing windfarms when made aware of their negative impact. This trend is continuing.

With respect to our local poll, not only did the above noted citizens verbally object to such proposed windfarm, but they also provided written confirmation of same (Ref: Documentation / A & B re Planning Application 18/01516/PP/Objection Letters/Petitions).

  1. CONCLUSION

We have tried to share with you our specific concerns in relation to the proposed Ardtaraig Windfarm and also what we learned in general terms, during our campaign.

This unique and special area is yours, it belongs to all of us, all Scots, and future generations of Scots and we all have a duty to preserve, protect and defend this National Scenic Area and we ask for your support in opposing this project. We believe it would be a national tragedy to destroy and degrade the very special Kyles of Bute National Scenic Area.

Yours Sincerely

Reg MacDonald

NAW Volunteer Coordinator

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