We have now lodged a planning appeal with the Scottish Government against the decision by ELC planning committee to reject our application for a 100% community-owned wind turbine. Below is a short Q&A covering the most common questions raised in relation to our proposal and our decision to appeal to the Scottish Government. Please email additional questions to dcecoATsustainingdunbar.org These will be answered and where appropriate added to this Q&A.
Please note this email address is monitored by volunteers and there may therefore be a delay in processing any communications.
Q Why don’t you accept the view that the visual impact of wind turbines is so negative that it overrides any benefits?
Climate change is real and its impacts are severe, most severe in areas which are less able to deal with those impacts, and historically less responsible for the causes. While we accept that turbines should be sensitively sited, and that there should be no carte blanche for developments, we feel that the negative perception by some regarding this project should not hamper attempts to tackle climate change or accept responsibility.
The benefits also include a significant injection of cash into the ward which could help tackle some of the impacts of ongoing cuts to public services and incomes.
Suggestions so far include:
- A community mini-bus to tackle isolation and high transport costs in outlying settlements while transporting social clubs and kids football teams etc;
- The provision of solar panels and insulation for low-income households;
- A free food day in the community café using food from local shops that would otherwise go to waste;
- Support for a welfare advice service.
Again we feel that these potential benefits to the whole of the ward outweigh any perceived negatives.
Q Why did you select Cocklaw /Blackcastle Hill?
A The site provides an excellent wind resource, reasonable proximity to the grid, is 1.2km from nearest home and we managed to secure the landowner’s agreement.
Q – Why did you choose this site when the Supplementary Capacity Study (SLCS)says there is no capacity on that site?
A – We identified and secured a CaRES loan to carry out a feasibility study and develop a proposal for this site before the landscape capacity study was published.
Q- Why not change to a site to comply with the SLCS?
A. The CaRES loan is to develop a specific site. It is now too late to change the site. Besides this, there are no other sites which provide such a combination of good wind resource, distance from houses, proximity to grid and with a landowner that will work with us.
We have no doubt that wherever we propose to site such a project objections will be raised and opposition organised.
Q – Why not develop inside an existing wind farm?
A – We have been trying to develop a community wind turbine within Aikengall and Crystal Rig wind farms since 2010. Unfortunately private wind farm developers have not proved responsive.
Q – Why is it in East Lammermuir if its a Dunbar community wind turbine?
A – The profits from the community-wind turbine will serve Dunbar and District, that includes Dunpender, West Barns, Dunbar and East Lammermuir Community Councils. Each have been invited to work on a ‘project evaluation group’ (PEG) which will decide how the profits are spread across existing community groups and new proposals for community projects . ELCC have said they are interested in joining the PEG.
The turbine is also visible from Dunbar.
Q A survey of residents in East Lammermuir rejected the proposal why don’t you accept that?
ELCC objected to the community wind turbine based their survey of local households. The survey was sent to 200 houses and 115 responded. 55 people objected and 33 supported . The rest didn’t mind or did not send the survey back (it had a stamped addressed envelope).
This compared to our survey in 2012 where 500 households gave their opinions including a sample from East Lammermuir. This found 61% supported the idea of a community-owned wind turbine in this specific location. The results of that survey led us to develop the application and we remain convinced of their legitimacy.
Q Why did your survey take into account the views of residents across the Ward when many cannot see it?
All residents across the ward subsidise wind and all other energy generation through general taxation and energy bills. They all therefore have a legitimate voice in this decision.
Besides the proposed turbine would in fact be visible from much of Dunbar and not visible from many areas across East Lammermuir.
Q East Lothian Council Planning committee refused the application. Why don’t you accept that?
Several members implied they supported the idea of the community wind turbine but had to refuse permission because of visual impact. The planning department cannot consider the community benefit as a “positive” against the visual impact “negative”. By taking the application to appeal it will highlight the need for a change in Scottish Planning Policy that will allow planning officials to take community benefit into consideration.
Q Using the Scottish Government in an attempt to override locally elected officials is anti-democratic, why are you pursuing this route?
The whole of the planning process is part of the democratic process – lodging, objecting, supporting, rejecting and appealing. There is therefore nothing anti-democratic in exhausting the process. Indeed suggestions that we should not do so are anti-democratic and any failure of us to do so may be viewed as an irresponsible waste of the public funds which have taken us this far.
The Scottish Government will be the ultimate arbiter on this and many other planning applications.
Q How much money?
£200,000 average a year for twenty years.
Q Who decides what to do with it?
We plan to set up a group to assess applications for funding for local projects which support the environment and the economy creating jobs and helping make Dunbar more sustainable and vibrant. The group will be open to community councils, local traders, residents, councils officials and others.
A similar scheme is working in another community, see Udny http://udnytrust.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/udny-community-wind-benefits/