On the 24th July 2015 the decision was made by the Dumfries and Galloway Planning Committee to reject the development of the above windfarm on grounds of Landscape. Their decision was however subjective and ignored the objective evidence presented by the professional consultants. We were also concerned to learn at the hearing that the socio-economic benefits of the scheme to the people of Dumfries and Galloway held no weight in their decision process. The developer has appealed this decision with the Scottish Government and our letter of support follows.
13/P/2/0327 – MOCHRUM FELL WINDFARM
I am writing to further my support for the development of the above wind farm.
As one of the landowners who would benefit from this scheme I am not impartial. I am however running a diverse business that must be sustainable if it is to continue to support the local economy, be that through employment, affordable housing, tourism or primary production. We have been a local employer and resident since the 19th century and my wife and I have huge aspirations to grow our business base further, which in turn will support the local economy both directly and indirectly. Estates require significant investment and more often than not this exceeds revenue. Diversification is key to business success. We see our region, together with so many in Dumfries and Galloway, as having huge tourism potential. Unlocking this potential requires capital and this scheme provides that capital both for the local community and ourselves. The community benefit fund could raise in the region of £3 million; add the additional financial benefit of a community turbine, the direct community income would be substantial.
The economy of Dumfries and Galloway is too dependent on few economic drivers, all seasonally variable: agriculture, forestry and tourism. In comparison, rentals and community benefits from renewable electricity generation is stable, improving the diversity and resilience of the local economy. At an indirect level, income from windfarms is readily recycled within the local area, providing an important multiplier effect and positive feedback for self-employment and the working population, with their consequent need for services. The construction phase of this project will support 235 full time jobs in Scotland (75 of these in Dumfries and Galloway). Once operational it will support 15 full time jobs (6 in Dumfries and Galloway). Adding the evidence from Government Research that 75% of tourists believe windfarms have a beneficial or neutral impact on our landscape, it would be short sighted for us to miss such an opportunity for what is essentially something that will exist on our landscape for only 25 years.
This scheme has undergone a great deal of scrutiny from professional consultants and ourselves. In my earlier letters of support, I made reference to the 1000+ pages of environmental assessment for this scheme. All professional consultants assessed this proposal: Visual, Ecological, Aviation/telecom, Access/traffic/transport, Noise/flicker socio-economical – all impacts were deemed acceptably and the Council’s Planning Officer recommended the proposal for approval. Unfortunately however the fact of visibility, albeit from a very limited area, swayed Dumfries and Galloway Planning Committee who made a subjective decision to not approve the scheme, purely upon landscape grounds. In addition, I was also informed by the committee that socio-economic benefits can have no weight in the decision process, although I am reliably informed to the contrary in other hearings. Their decision process seems to lack balance and rigour and I therefore support this appeal.
In summary, any effects on the landscape and visual amenity must be weighed up against not only the Scottish Governments policy requirements to meet renewable energy targets, but also the socio-economic benefits the scheme will bring to the local economy, both directly and indirectly. It is clear the proposal for this windfarm has been amended such that these visual and landscape impacts fall within acceptable limits and consequently this scheme should be approved.