Wind farm phone poll is blasted

AN ACTION group fighting plans to build a windfarm on farmland north-east of Drymen has slammed a telephone survey which was carried out by the developers.

Hamilton-based Banks Renewables say they are taking into account feedback they have received from the local communities.

However, Endrick Valley Action Group (EVAG), which was formed to fight this new proposal to build at Ard Ghaoth after it successfully fought off plans to build a windfarm at Ballindalloch, believes that Banks Renewables survey is flawed.

Mary Young, a spokesperson for EVAG, which has studied the survey with help from a professional market researcher, said: “It seems to be an exercise designed to influence people, borne out by the coding of responses into a framework, and responses on community benefit/investment being garnered at this time without fact to assist in a decision, and by asking whether the respondent would be prepared to sign a letter of support or a petition.

“The report, poorly prepared without care for the area, contained some flawed questions and flawed percentages.

“The survey was based on ludicrously small numbers, a paltry 3.4 per cent of rural residents and 0.3 per cent of those living in Stirling.

“The report itself warns of low base sizes.

“Why Stirling? The windfarm would be visible on a good day from the Wallace Monument but would have a far bigger impact on many of the settlements within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, many villages outwith the park, and all its key gateway routes to the south and east including the A809 from Bearsden and the A81 from Glasgow.

“Banks state that they are taking into account feedback from local communities. It is EVAG’s view that proper consultation should be taking place with as many people as possible who would be impacted by the industrialisation of an area containing so many iconic viewpoints.”

The site is currently at scoping stage with Stirling Council.

Banks Renewables says it could accommodate up to 20 turbines, with an installed capacity of up to 40MW, which would meet the power requirements of up to 22,000 homes.

Banks Renewables say 39 per cent of those surveyed in the wider Stirling area supported the scheme, with 34 per cent neutral and 23 per cent opposed.

In the communities closest to the proposed site, 34 per cent currently support it and 35 per cent oppose the wind farm, with just over a quarter of respondents holding no opinion.

Colin Anderson, director of Banks Renewables, said: “The survey has shown a good degree of support for a windfarm in this area before we have finalised the proposals and fully promoted the extensive local benefits that will be delivered should the site be approved.

“Now we will review the design for the site, taking on board all the feedback, as well as the technical and environmental assessments, and consult once again with the communities, giving them the opportunity to comment on the finalised proposal, ahead of the planning application.

“The survey showed that 42 per cent of respondents do not believe that wind energy is viable and clearly this is affecting people’s views about the site.

“Wind is one of the cheapest ways of producing renewable electricity and is vitally important if Scotland is to avoid spiralling energy costs in the future and a reliance on nuclear power or non-indigenous gas reserves.”

Banks hopes to submit the planning application in spring 2012.

Anyone with queries about the Ard Ghaoth scheme can contact the Banks Renewables’ community relations team on 0191 378 6100 or via enquiries@banksgroup.co.uk.

To contact EVAG, go to www.evag.co.uk or phone 01360 441068.