TEG-H supports renewable energy and the right sorts of wind turbines in the right places. However, it considers that these are not right for Helensburgh. TEG-H also supports the measurement of wind at the site, but is concerned that the measuring mast (for which planning permission has been given) is in the wrong location. TEG-H also agrees with the list of planning matters to be considered in regard to wind turbines published in paragraph 169 of Scottish Planning Policy 2014 and a comparable list in the Argyll and Bute Council Local Plan. In August 2014 TEG-H issued the following two
Wind farm could harm Helensburgh says TEG-H
TEG-H is still completing its work on the proposed Helensburgh wind farm, but it has enough evidence to raise legitimate concerns and to show the following.
The wind farm proposal is contrary to some key planning issues.
Cash to the community is not a planning consideration, and any such cashcould be uncertain and quite small, compared with wider disadvantages.
There could be adverse impacts on the long-term economy of Helensburgh.
TEG-H, the Turbines Evaluation Group which is assessing the potential impact of a wind farm overlooking the town and beyond, has completed much of its work.
Its committee states, “The evidence emerging from our investigations so far, along with analyses from external advisers and other sources, is that that the proposed wind farm might harm Helensburgh. And the financial inducements are minor compared with possible economic implications.
“We have divided our assessment into two categories: planning and finance. In both categories our findings are pointing towards rejection of the proposed wind farm.”
The Scottish Government and Argyll and Bute Council have guidelines for planning decisions about wind farms.
First, the height of the turbines, at 86 metres to blade tip, is excessive and the council warned the developers of that a year ago. Argyll and Bute Council commissioned an expert report, the Landscape Wind Energy Capacity Study. This said that for ‘open ridgeland’ such as this, there is scope for turbines of less than 20m, and, in some circumstances, even up to 50m. But there are warnings against them rising above the ridge or being seen from the National Park. The proposed turbines would breach these, thus departing from council planning.
Next is landscape and visual impact. Impact of this proposal would be huge. It would affect a sweep of areas (including on and across the Clyde and into the National Park) and, unlike most rural wind farms, would be visible in the daily lives of a large population.
The official lists include effects on natural heritage, tourism and recreation, residential amenity and other social aspects. The wind farm would be adverse to these to differing degrees.
Impacts on core countryside paths and long-distance walking routes must be considered. Helensburgh’s tourism is already being assisted by our network of core paths, the Three Lochs Way and the recent opening of the cross-Scotland John Muir Way to Helensburgh. The turbines would be seriously close to these.
TEG-H will not assess some issues, such as MoD concerns, and has not completed work on others, such as archaeology and bird life. But several major issues are clear and worrying. The proposed wind farm is contrary to important planning aspects and Helensburgh’s future. While rural areas can conceal wind farms in remote locations, this one would be highly conspicuous.
Cash from developers to the community is not a planning matter. But economic impact on the town is.
Official advice is that planning authorities should only consider funds to local communities after the planning decisions have been made. Yet developers tend to suggest earlier that there would be cash to communities, to seek public support, even if it is not known which communities might get funds or how much.
TEG-H has analysed the developers’ so-called ‘community benefit’. The findings are that it depends on assumptions about unknowns such as wind, income and operating costs. It might be very little unless a legal guarantee is given. It is likely to be meagre relative to probable economic and visual harm.
By contrast, impact on the long term economics of Helensburgh is a planning consideration. Turbines seem unlikely to provide much in the way of local jobs but could put some at risk. Helensburgh’s economy depends on people. It is a residential and tourist town. If a wind farm deters even a few new residents or visitors, that is an economic loss. There is evidence that wind farms do deter.
Recent economic policy by Argyll and Bute Council can be summarised as ‘Prosperity through population’. Helensburgh’s population has dropped by -3% in ten years. That is 3% less spending on local jobs. The Council wants Helensburgh’s population to increase by about 9% in the next ten years. That would enhance the local economy.
Attractiveness is the key. Anything that improves the town (CHORD, parks, etc.) assists. Anything that further degrades the town has adverse economic impact.
This wind farm proposal is dubious and could harm Helensburgh. Local people are urged to treat any early questionnaire from the developers with caution.
Wind farm could harm Helensburgh says TEG-H
The TEG-H committee has stated, ‘Evidence from our investigations to date is disturbing. The proposed wind farm would be contrary to some planning policy, would have impact on Helensburgh’s character and would be visible over a huge area.
'A serious risk is to the town’s economy. That depends on people coming to live, visit and spend money here – what the Council calls “People for prosperity”. There is evidence that people do not like living near turbines. Our population is falling. It has to grow.
‘Attractiveness attracts. Efforts are now being made to improve the town and its surroundings to attract people. Anything that reverses attractiveness risks future income.
‘The amount of money being offered by the developers is quite small compared to the town’s economy. It may look substantial, but it is not within the bigger picture.
‘What is more, it is less per person than many wind farms. While rural communities with inconspicuous turbines are getting £70 a head and more, Helensburgh is being offered a highly visible wind farm and less than £3 per person.
‘TEG-H supports renewable energy and sees sense in the right sorts of wind turbines in the right places. But is this right for Helensburgh? Our evidence so far suggests not.
‘There is more information to be gathered and residents have, at the earliest, until mid-September to draw conclusions and make representations. TEG-H urges people to be cautious about premature questionnaires now.
‘Meanwhile, TEG-H will publish on its website ( www.helturbines.org ) data about visual and other impacts, turbine heights, natural heritage and other recognised planning matters. It will also give more details about finances.
‘It will be up to Argyll and Bute Council to accept or reject this wind farm. Meanwhile TEG-H thinks it is important to let residents have an objective assessment of the very important issues involved. It is not a simple matter.’