Monday, 22 August 2011

Breaker Hill wind farm #1

Breaker Hill lies immediately to the North West of the small Scottish village of Pinwherry in South Ayrshire. To help you pinpoint its location, the map below is centred on it with the proposed wind farm development boundary shown in blue:

View South Carrick Wind Farms in a larger map

Currently it is a commercial forest. However, plans are afoot to change that. Specifically, Wind Prospects Developments Ltd is proposing to transform this wooded hillside into a wind farm. The site boundary for this wind farm extends to approximately 680 acres, and as part of the development, approximately 667 acres of this woodland would be clear-felled. 15 turbines would then be sighted across the cleared area, standing approximately 326 feet (or 99 metres) above the level of the ground on which they would be sited. Once the sight has been clearfelled, the harvesting detritus (that is the branches and bark stripped from the felled trees, and the trunk stumps) will be left in place. Commercial forests are normally felled in sections, and quickly replanted. However, clearly the future of Breaker Hill as a forest is in serious doubt. Here is an image of Breaker Hill, as seem from the junction of the B734 with the A714, looking North West:

The prospect of a wind farm at this location has existed in one shape or form (to my knowledge) since about 2004; that's 7 years. The name of the development may have changed, but the location hasn't. So, for 7 years, many of the residents around Breaker Hill, Colmonell and Pinwherry have had to live their lives with this sword of damocles hanging over their heads.

Currently, the completed planning application for this proposed development is with South Ayrshire Council, and has been for many months now. There is a stalwart group of local residents who are opposed to this development, and if you would like to get in touch with them, this link will take you to their website where further details of this proposed development can be found, including instructions on how you can still object to the development it if you want to. The developer's project website can be found here.

In a relatively recent twist (at the end of 2010), the Knockbain plantation (which lies immediately adjacent to the Northern Western boundary of the Breaker Hill plantation, and covers and area of approximately 360 acres or 146 hectares) was re-listed as being for sale by the Forestry Commission (with John Clegg & Co acting as the sale agents). Now, it is normal practice for the Forestry Commission to sell a percentage of their existing holdings each year (for the reasons described here). They also acquire new holdings as funds and availability permit so in general, perhaps there is nothing sinister going on. However, quite recently, the Knockbain plantation was suddenly withdrawn from being for sale. Upon perusing the sales particulars (which are no longer publicly available), there is an interesting looking paragraph:

"Renewables Development
A standard security is to be granted by the purchaser in favour of the vendor for 25% of the uplift in value resulting from any renewable energy projects or access thereto given planning approval within a period of 15 years from the date of purchase. Potential has been expressed for wind farm development in this area; however, purchasers should make their own enquiries."

From the above paragraph, it seems that the Forestry Commission is getting in on the renewable energy gravy train, since they stand to collect a 25% slice of any land value increase occurring as a direct result of a renewable energy development on that site after it has been sold.

Now, there is no direct evidence that this stalled sale has anything to do with Breaker Hill. But the fact remains, a fairly large piece of forest immediately adjacent to a site for which a planning application for a wind farm has been submitted was placed on the market and then inexplicably withdrawn. No reason was given for that action. Am I being  too suspicious?