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Echoes > 2011 > HeraldScotland - Storm of protest over Loch Lomond wind farm plans

LogoOctober 3, 2011
Exclusive Alison Campsie

Storm of protest over Loch Lomond wind farm plans

summit UP: Walkers on top of Ben Lomond. Both proposed new wind farms would be visible from the top of Scotland’s most southerly Munro. Picture: Colin Mearns

It is one of Scotland’s most popular beauty spots, a largely unspoilt landscape loved by walkers, anglers and cyclists.

But campaigners fear the countryside around Loch Lomond will be ruined by plans for a wind farm.

Proposals for 20 turbines at Craigievern, just north of Drymen, have been put forward by Banks Renewables but Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park has raised “significant concerns” about the site.

It comes on top of a separate formal application lodged by Lomond Energy to build 10 turbines south-west of the loch at Merkins Farm at Bonhill, close to Dumbarton.

“It would be hard to come up with a more inappropriate site than Craigievern. Turbines would be seen from all directions”

Both wind farms will be visible from Ben Lomond, with views of them from two other Munros – Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. People walking on Conic Hill, Duncryne and the West Highland Way could have the 100m structures in their sight.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park said there were concerns about the impact of the Drymen site, called Ard-Ghaoth, and the combined effect of the developments, particularly with a growing number of green energy projects in the area.

A report by the park authority said: “The site lies on the National Park boundary and in close proximity to the Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Scenic Areas (NSA) as well as several locally designated landscape areas.

“It is essential that the impacts on views to and from these areas and the changes likely to the special qualities of these areas are taken into account.

“In particular, the wind farm will be visible from the Trossachs and Loch Lomond NSAs as well as other important public viewpoints, areas and routes within, and approaches to, the National Park. This will have significant impacts due to visual intrusion on the locations and the experiences of people who live in and are visiting the Park.”

It added: “There is likely to be a significant cumulative impact from the operational impact of the 20 turbines proposed when added to the impact of the turbines at Braes of Doune and those schemes proposed and constructed within the Carron Valley area and at Merkins, West Dunbartonshire.”

Banks Renewables now has a list of recommendations from Stirling Council to consider in the company’s forthcoming environmental impact assessment and planning application.

Concerns about the wind farm’s impact on wildlife have been raised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), with the company now advised to consider any potential harm to capercaillie and Greenland white-fronted geese close to the site, especially loss of habitat and collision risk.

An assessment should also be carried out to identify whether Atlantic salmon, brook lamprey and river lamprey in the nearby Endrick Water could be disturbed by changes in water quality that could be caused by building works.

The company has also been asked to justify building turbines that are 100m tall on land which is earmarked for wind energy developments of 50m or less.

Mary Young, of the Endrick Valley Action Group, said: “It would be hard to come up with a more inappropriate site for a wind farm than Craigievern/Ard Ghaoth.

She added: “The turbines would be seen from significant viewpoints in all directions – from the Campsie Fells to the Bens, from The Queen’s View to Conic Hill, from the Wallace Monument on a clear day, impacting on the beauty of Loch Lomond itself.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of Stirlingshire and our landscape is its heart.”

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Renewables, said: “The site for the proposed Ard Ghaoth wind farm lies wholly outside the boundaries of the Loch Lomond National Park, and has previously been identified as a potential area of search for renewable energy development of this type.

“However, we are well aware of central Stirlingshire’s importance as a gateway link to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, and have been undertaking a range of work over the last year which will ensure the implications of this are taken fully into account in the planning application that we eventually submit.

“Employment and commercial opportunities for local firms will be created in the site preparation and construction phase of the scheme, and in addition to this, the community benefits fund that would run alongside it would provide invaluable funding for local volunteer groups and good causes.”

He said a programme has been going on in local communities to tell people about the proposals and let them comment on them.

He added: “The feedback we have received is being used by our design team in developing the Ard Ghaoth proposal.”

The Scottish Government aims to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity from renewable energy projects by 2020.

A recent report by the John Muir Trust claimed that turbines produce power at less than 10% of their capacity for more than a third of the time, and half the time at less than 20%.

It said: “There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the implications of reliance on wind for any significant proportion of our energy requirement.”



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