Visual impact is an important planning consideration for wind farms. The images in this website are the best indications TEG-H was able to obtain and should be regarded as guidelines rather than exact. As Scottish Natural Heritage stated in August 2014, "No visualisation can ever represent exactly what a wind farm will look like." TEG-H considers that the public should have indicative images related to the narrow field of vision once they are observed as well as the wide horizontal photomontages which have, properly, been provided by the developers. As shown in several presentations of zones of theoretical visibility (see below), the turbines would be seen from a wide area (e.g. parts of the National Park, on and across the Clyde Estuary) containing a substantial population.
Scottish Planning Policy and the A&BC Local Plan emphasise visual impact.
Visual impact of these turbines would be extensive in respect of – the large areas from which the turbines would be seen – the number of people who could see them in their daily lives.
Before the application, A&BC warned the developers that “The scale of this proposal (especially in terms of turbine height) is unlikely to be appropriate for this location and may result in vey significant adverse landscape and visual impacts.” (22.8.13) The developers seem to have ignored that warning.
The visual impact maps which the developers were required to prepare provide striking evidence of the area and population affected. (See also the impact map below.)
Except where buildings are in the way, the turbines would be seen clearly across Helensburgh and from the National Park, on and across the Clyde, from parts of Rosneath Peninsula, and from many other points.
This is a serious matter. To see a video “tour” of the proposed turbines
in relation to surrounding landscape,
click here or on the green button above.
Other visual considerations
The developers’ maps showing the Zones of Theoretical Visibility are thorough and disturbing. They demonstrate that the turbines would be seen: - from the southern part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park - from across Helensburgh - from the territory of the Cardross Community Council - from both on and across the Clyde Estuary - from both upstream and downstream of the Clyde - from parts of the Rosneath Peninsula - from parts of the territory of the Rhu & Shandon Community Council
The word “theoretical” in the term ZTV refers to the fact that in places buildings would screen the turbines. The maps therefore only allow for hills. We are informed that trees are not deemed relevant for planning assessments because trees grow, get felled or (in some species) lose foliage in winter.
In the image below, the circle is 15 km. from the wind farm site, the limit regarded by Scottish Natural Heritage as the maximum distance at which it is possible to see individual turbines. The area marked in green shows the area from which all five wind turbines would be potentially visible.
(click on image for larger version)
The proposed road to convey construction and maintenance traffic would be more than a track and, since it would cross open moorland, would be conspicuous from the norther approach to the town. Its intended route would be from the main Helensburgh to Loch Lomond Road, beyond the coup, across open land to above the second reservoir, then north to the Drumfad wood and then to the turbines themselves. If this road (‘track’) were to be used for more than construction and maintenance (e.g. timber felling transport) the visual impact would be greater.
The Argyll and Bute Council Local Plan (2009) policy LP REN 1 – Wind Farms and Wind Turbines, page 87, states that wind farms “will not have an unacceptable adverse impact directly, indirectly or cumulatively on . . . physical aspects of sustainable development.” We judge that this application would have such adverse impact.
This Local Plan also lists issues that must be satisfactorily addressed. They include: - Communities, settlements and their settings - Landscape and townscape character, scenic quality and visual and general amenity.
The proposed wind farm would impinge on these visually.
The Scottish Government’s Scottish Planning Policy (2014) has recently been released and has precedence over older policies. Its paragraph 169 (page 40) lists 19 considerations to be taken into account when reaching decisions on wind farms. Visual impacts get mentioned twice, along with related matters such as landscape and cumulative impact. It is evident that visual impacts are of great importance to this case, markedly because of the adverse effects the proposal would have on surrounding landscapes, settlements and people.
The developers based their application on the now outdated 2010 Scottish PLanning Policy, but the decision will be taken on the 2014 version.
Photomontages and visual presentation. It is noted that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been reviewing the methods used by developers to convey visual impact, recognising that there is scope for distortion. The new arrangements will enable the public to view images online, viewpoints will have to be out to 12.5 miles, and methods will be used to verify that images have been presented correctly. We hope that reducing the real heights, or placing pale turbines against a similarly pale clouded background thus reducing their conspicuousness in photomontages will be allowed for.
Mr. Turvey, speaking on behalf of SNH, stated that no visualisation can ever represent what a wind farm will look like due to different weather conditions, lighting and turbine movement. We agree, but we feel that the setting of turbines in very wide horizontal panoramas, while representing the generality, fail to show what turbines would look like once the viewer has focused on them in a more compact sight frame. That is what we have sought to do in our images which are as valid a representation as we were able to construct on an amateur basis. The need is for both.
We also argue that the Google Earth “tour” by video, which we also provide, adds to the understanding of visual impact. In this case it demonstrates the extent of the extent of the visual impacts over the total area. To see the video, click here.
For more information, TEG-H committee member Dr. Geoff
Riddington presents a paper "An Analysis of the Visibility
and the Resulting Impact of the Proposed Helensburgh Wind Farm". To see this paper, click on the link below: