Community Councils Give Emphatic Support to Wind Plan

by Scott Douglas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Netherthird Community Garden has already been supported by Banks Renewables.Three influential groups have thrown their weight behind plans for a wind farm east of Cumnock.

The backing from three Community Councils – the groups set up to give local people a voice in the areas they serve – has delighted wind energy company, Banks Renewables.

Now the company hopes vocal support from people living closest to the proposed site will help convince planning bosses to approve the wind farm plans.

Hamilton-based Banks Renewables is awaiting a decision on its planning application for a 27MW Wind Farm at High Cumnock, which would include eight turbines, each 132m high.

Three community councils serving Netherthird & District, New Cumnock and Cronberry, Logan & Lugar, have all publicly given their support to the Banks Renewables proposals.

Planners at East Ayrshire Council have even been urged to abandon any suggestion the turbines should be lower, because such a move could be harmful to local communities.

Jane Dolan, Secretary of Netherthird Community Council wrote to the council’s planning department to “emphasise its support for High Cumnock Wind Farm”.

Regeneration

She said: “It has recently come to our attention that East Ayrshire Council would like Banks Renewables to reconsider the height of the turbines due to concerns regarding the visual impact on the landscape.

“We believe a sudden reduction in the overall height of the turbines will have no significant effect on the visual impact. A reduction in the overall height of the turbines will reduce the productivity of the scheme and the lasting effects on the environment.”

And she added: “Any reduction to the turbine height will only be detrimental to our community and surrounding area.”

All three community councils have been involved in extensive local consultations carried out by Banks Renewables, which has proposed an innovative community partnership yielding 2.5% of the wind farm revenues for the local area – up to £5.8million over the 25 year lifetime of the project.

The community would also be offered the chance to purchase an equity share option up to 5%, with the revenues generated being directed into worthwhile local projects, including job creation and training schemes, apprenticeships and business start up grants. Groups such as Netherthird Community Garden (pictured) have already received support from Banks Renewables.

Jane Dolan’s letter to planners added: “The Community Council would like to emphasise the desire to regenerate our community.

“Any proposed reduction in height will have a detrimental effect on the overall benefit to the people of Netherthird. This in turn will have a negative impact on the proposed regeneration of our community already in a state of social deprivation.”

Meanwhile members of Cronberry, Logan & Lugar Community Council have also restated their backing for the scheme and insisted the turbines should not be reduced in size.

At its October meeting members studied images showing how the turbines would look in the landscape at 132m high, compared with how smaller turbines of just 115m would look. They heard how a reduction would decrease the capacity of each turbine from 3.4MW to 2MW.

The official minutes from the meeting show that members of the community council were then given a proposal to continue supporting the existing 27.2MW generating and states: “This was unanimously accepted.”

New Cumnock Community Council has also stated its support for the existing High Cumnock scheme and has written to planners to oppose any suggestion of lowering turbine sizes.

Colin Anderson, development director at Banks Renewables, said: “We are extremely grateful to the community councils for their support. We have been consulting and working closely with them for two years and this shows that a genuine partnership approach works.

Opportunities

“It means the efforts we are making to involve and inform local people are really paying off and we look forward to continuing to develop the relationships we’ve formed with families and businesses in the area over the coming years.

“We’re delighted to hear about the positive support for High Cumnock Wind Farm, as it shows that local people do recognise it as a community wind farm. A community project that is going to support the future economic prospects for the area for years to come; as well as helping improve the environment in the surrounding towns and villages and delivering many, many fantastic projects that mean so much to so many people.

“It is also clear that people are behind the commitment we’ve made to invest in jobs and education opportunities locally. We now want to be given the chance to make this happen.

“Hopefully East Ayrshire Council will recognise the long term benefits that the High Cumnock Community Partnership and Wind Farm will deliver when it determines the application early in the New Year; and in doing so give a £33 million shot in the arm to an area that has been one of the hardest hit by the recession.”

Full details about the High Cumnock proposals, the community partnership offering and the economic and environmental benefits can be found at http://www.banksgroup.co.uk/high-cumnock/.

Banks Renewables is part of the Banks Group (www.banksgroup.co.uk), a family firm founded in 1976, which now employs 420 people in the renewable energy, property and mining sectors.

 

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