Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Knoweside Hill wind farm # 1

This is a post regarding a potential wind farm development in South Ayrshire. It is a development that has been 'bubbling' away in the planning process for a good number of years now. The site is referred to as Knoweside Hill. So where is this potential wind farm development? Have a look at the map below, and if you are not sure of the area, zoom out a little:

View South Carrick Wind Farms in a larger map

The site itself is very close to the coastline. As best as I can ascertain, the proposed turbines have a blade tip elevation of approximately 295 feet (or 90 metres in new money). It will therefore certainly be visible offshore. Doubtless it will also be visible from the coastal road into Ayr (the A719), which visitors to the area are encouraged to follow. Also close by are Culzean and Maidens although not having seen the photomontages, I cannot say what the view from these locations is likely to be. I imagine though, that it will have a detrimental impact on the Ayrshire Coastal Path

I believe the original planning application was actually submitted in 2006, and at the time raised quite a few eyebrows. Here are just a couple of the articles published about this development at the time:

There certainly was a lot of local debate and feelings ran high. Then the application disappeared into the planning system - almost to be forgotten and things quietened down. However, it has recently resurfaced off the port bow and is now due before the South Ayrshire Council Planning Regulatory Panel on 15 September 2011. This is a significant application as I believe it will be the first time that South Ayrshire has had to make a decision about such a development. Presumably by now, the planners will have made a recommendation and circulated this along with their report. I imagine at least a site visit will be arranged, but we'll just have to wait and see.

I find this application interesting from another perspective though. If you click on the blue area on the map above, and then on the text that says 'Planning Link', you will be taken to South Ayrshire's planning page for the development. Now, most of the documentation for this application is no longer accessible (so much for 'open government'), but what is available are the names of the objectors and supporters. If I was being really suspicious, I would find the distribution of objectors and supporters curious. Why are all the objectors at the end of list? From memory, South Ayrshire's website sorts comments in date received order. If the comments are indeed displayed in chronological, then this application appears to have received a rash of late supporters that curiously outnumber the objectors. Of course, it could be the other way around in that the supporters got momentum first - or it could just be the way the data is displayed or inputted. However, I count 71 supporters and 63 objectors. Now, I haven't followed this particular application but I have never seen a wind farm application with more supporters than objectors.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to have access to the dates the comments were submitted - pity, as it would settle my highly suspicious mind at rest. But there may well still be a salutary lesson in this. If, and I emphasise the 'if', this application did indeed receive late support, it may be a pattern which is repeated with other applications - after all 5 years is a long time to drum up support and the momentum of objection campaigns inevitably dies off as the die-hard individuals driving them become battle weary.