Letters to the Editor: The Buteman, November 23, 2012

Elephant in the room?

Sir - Like many others I am appalled at the proposal to violate the appearance of Bute, and the welfare of its people, by the proposed grotesque and massive wind turbines.

However I would like here to address those who may be reluctant to object because they feel global warming, climate change and so on necessitate even such extreme measures.

Global warming stopped 16 years ago in 1996. The head of East Anglia University Climate Change Research Unit, responsible for compiling one of the world’s three global temperature records, based on 30,000 global observation points, said in 2011 ‘there has been no statistically significant global warming for fifteen years.’

This has since been reinforced by current Met Office data which shows the world climate has cooled since 2010. Putting on one side questions of statistical significance (out of respect for The Buteman editor) this does not of course indicate we have turned downwards, but certainly supports lack of further warming!

Carbon dioxide concentration has increased steadily over this period. Indeed for the last 25 years it has increased at about 0.4 per cent per annum of its existing concentration of perhaps 390 parts per million.

Had global temperatures been linked to carbon dioxide as a driving greenhouse gas, we should surely have seen an increase in global temperatures over the last sixteen years?

The alternative is that there is no proof that carbon dioxide is a main, or even subsidiary, driver of global temperatures. There are many other possible candidates, both within and beyond earth itself, added to which global temperature movements and associated factors are in many cases cyclical.

Where does this leave us – should we worry about carbon dioxide levels? Only if levels fall – CO2 is needed for plant growth and an increased and increasing human population’s need for increased crop and woodland support. We see this already in mature Amazonian rainforests (oxygen generators) increasing biomass at about two tons per acre per year.

Why are we throwing money at ridiculous, infinitely profitable schemes like this windfarm? Infinitely to an existing landholder since normally rate of return (interest, dividend) is the ratio of income to investment. Here there is zero investment (thanks to government, i.e. taxpayer funded CARES) – so rate of return is represented by substantial ongoing investment returns divided by something near zero…

In the normal financial world, high returns would reflect high risk. In this distorted ‘renewable energy’ environment, this is turned on its head, at whose cost – guess!

If you feel it is time to put a stop to this nonsense in however small a way, and that your money might be better squandered elsewhere, then please comment on the planning application (reference no. 12/02202/PP) either via www.argyll-bute.gov.uk, or by writing to Argyll and Bute Council, Kilmory, Lochgilphead, Argyll, PA31 8RT.

Harry Reid, Millburn Cottage, Ascog


‘Despicable’ actions by objectors

Sir - I read with interest the letter from Mr Tony Harrison regarding ‘infrasound’ and ‘low frequency noise’ published in last week’s Buteman.

The article to which Mr Harrison refers, by Nissenbaum, Aramini & Hanning (2012) in the journal Noise and Health is a recent publication that has so far received no citations elsewhere in the scientific literature.

It has, however, been seized on with glee by right-wing anti-turbine newspapers.

What neither of these papers, nor Tony Harrison, reveals is that the article has been criticised as ‘severely biased’. All three of the authors are on the Advisory Group of anti-wind-turbine lobbying organisation ‘The Society for Wind Vigilance’!

Much of the information in the Nissenbaum et al report has previously been reviewed in legal hearings in Ontario and Saskatchewan in Canada, and by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the US, which concluded, ’attributing any of the observed [human health] associations to the wind turbines (either noise from them or the sight of them) is premature’.

‘To date, no peer reviewed articles demonstrate a direct causal link between people living in proximity to modern wind turbines, the noise they emit and resulting physiological health effects’ (Knopper and Ollson, 2011, Environmental Health). Yet the anti-wind movement continues to crank out misinformation about the potential ‘health risks’ from ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’

There are no mentions of the term ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ in over 22 million peer-reviewed biomedical scientific journals held by the US government web site PubMed. However, thousands of articles on the subject can be found if one types the term into Google.

Australian Professor of Public Health Simon Chapman has called Wind Turbine Syndrome ‘the mass hysteria of the 21st century’ pointing out that wind turbines have been blamed by campaign groups for in excess of 125 different illnesses ranging from ‘lung cancer, leukaemia, diabetes, herpes, “electromagnetic spasms in the skull”, infertility [to] the ghastly sounding “loss of bowels”.’

According to Chapman, “Other than perhaps the aftermath of a nuclear blast on population health, there is nothing known to medicine that comes close to the morbid apocalypse that is being megaphoned by anti-wind groups.”

Demographic analysis shows that the population of Bute is older, poorer, less likely to have worked and/or more likely to have a limiting long-term illness than the population of Argyll and Bute as a whole.

To play on people’s health insecurities in this way – as Mr Harrison and his associates have repeatedly done in the letters pages of The Buteman, in flyers delivered door-to-door on the island and in emails circulated far and wide – in order to drum up opposition to a planning application for a renewable energy project that could actually bring many benefits to people living on Bute is, in my view, despicable.

We have alerted the council to the misinformation currently being circulated and will do so again if more of this rubbish is produced.

Wind turbines that produce significant amounts of electricity are big, but they’re not as big as those pictured in several of the laughably inaccurate flyers circulating around Bute, won’t fry our brains or kill us in our sleep.

They generate power without burning fuel, quickly repay the carbon cost of their construction and installation and – on a windy island with a generally poor economic outlook – actually offer a mechanism for generating revenue, which we are happy to share with those around us. They have been successfully installed (and even embraced!) on other Scottish islands including Gigha and Lewis and have not been shown to have any adverse impact on tourism or health in those places.

Those who want to read more about these issues, study the detailed planning documents including accurate photomontages (which are risibly difficult to access on the Argyll & Bute web site) or support the planning application may find further details and instructions on how to do so at www.ascogfarm.com.

Ardian Tear, Ascog Farm, Ascog


‘Climate of fear’ over wind farm

Sir - I have followed the debate around the proposed Ascog wind turbines with interest.

I know Bute well and have probably visited every village and travelled every road on the island.

We all have to make a contribution to carbon reduction, yet certain individuals are whipping up a climate of fear on the island, based on internet-derived drivel relating to health and other falsehoods.

Most of those who object live in houses which face out to sea, so the turbines won’t interrupt the view.

I have seen words such as ‘pristine’ and ‘unspoiled’ used to describe Bute. Unfortunately this is simply untrue; the Scottish environment has been adapted continuously to the demands of the human population, particularly over the last 500 years, which has seen the removal of vast tracts of natural woodland, the creation of plantation forests, agricultural holdings and suburbanisation (the latter including the east coast of Bute).

Farms have to adapt to the times, otherwise they become an expensive drain on those who own them.

Wind power generation is an appropriate industry to occupy agricultural land, especially where holdings have become too small to prove economic. Are those wind-objectors who want to preserve a landscape in aspic willing to compensate landowners for that luxury?

I do not think the Ascog development will deter tourism: quite the contrary, it will paint a picture of Bute as a vibrant community attempting to take ownership of its own energy economy.

Also, it seems more than £1 million will given directly to the local community. Perhaps the developer might add a visitor centre to promote tourism?

The bottom line is that Bute makes little contribution to the generation of the electricity it uses, and incredibly some of the residents even object to the generation capacity on the opposite side of the Firth of Clyde.

So who do the objectors expect to generate the power they use? I would simply disconnect them.

I urge the people of Bute to support this forward-looking development.

Bruce Gittings, 26 Cameron March, Edinburgh


‘Quick to criticise wind power, slow with solutions’

Sir - With regard to the planning application for three wind turbines on the land owned by Ascog Farm, and more specifically the criticisms of this proposal published in last week’s edition, there are a number of factors that your readership should consider before coming to an informed point of view.

One of the main concerns seems to be that low frequency noise emitting from the turbines could have detrimental effects on people who live within the vicinity of the proposed development.

Bearing in mind that the looming energy crisis will eventually have to be resolved one way or the other, it is only sensible that the health risks of other options are considered.

If we are to continue using fossil fuels, apart from the fact that it is a diminishing and increasingly expensive resource, it doesn’t take a scientist to suspect that there may well be a link to respiratory conditions.

In the case of the nuclear option, if there ever was to be an accident of the type witnessed in Chernobyl or Fukushima, then the unproven health risks cited in last week’s column would pale far into insignificance.

Another criticism appears to be where the turbines would be sited. Instead of having them within the vicinity of built up areas, we could have them in a more rural setting.

Of course, in this instance, the critics would point to the degradation of our scenic heritage as a reason for not having them.

The simple fact is that, as a society, we will have to be creative in finding solutions that ensure that the lights will not go out and that our children are not lumbered with irreversible problems caused by our inaction.

Whilst the critics are quick to point out the possible downsides of renewables, I don’t hear much in the way of solutions.

Alec Mack, 26 Castle Street, Port Bannatyne


Green energy would come at too great a cost

Sir - The information detailed below has been compiled by concerned Bute residents, regarding the planning proposal for the erection of three 74 metre high wind turbines, associated access road, control building and hard standing at Ascog farm on the east coast of the island.

This is not an objection based upon any opposition to wind farms or turbines. All of us are aware of the need to explore all possible alternatives to conventional power generation, and some of our number already have, in fact, solar panels, ground source heating etc.

We are all mindful of the need for ‘green’ energy but in this instance we are concerned that it would come at too great a cost, and severely damage our social, historic, architectural and natural environment, as well as causing huge damage to tourist numbers and subsequently the islands economy.

In short, if granted, this industrial, and potentially, hugely damaging planning proposal, would have a most detrimental and irreversible effect upon this wonderful island and its residents.

At present there is only a 50-metre (164-foot) monitoring mast on the site, which can be seen from as far away as Wemyss Bay, a distance of ten kilometres.

If the plan gained approval it would be for three 74-metre (242-foot) turbines, each one half as high again as the existing mast, clearly considerably much wider, and far higher than trees on the site.

A large number of properties are already very close to the mast, but because of generating issues the turbines have to be two hundred metres apart, resulting in a potential separation distance of less than five hundred metres from many more homes and businesses nearby. In fact, the nearest private home would be a mere 380 metres away.

Within a short distance from the mast are also many outstanding listed buildings such as Balmory Hall, a Grade A listed Victorian mansion, the famous Ascog Hall and Fernery, Southpark House, two Landmark Trust properties plus many more listed buildings. Mount Stuart is also only a short distance away.

At one kilometre more than 70 homes and businesses would be affected, and at one and a half kilometres the Victoria Hospital, Rothesay Academy and hundreds more families, as well as every tourist, would experience a highly visible industrial scar on the skyline.

The turbines would be highly visible from Inverkip, Wemyss Bay, Skelmorlie, Great and Little Cumbrae, the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay ferry, Toward and from all craft on the Clyde estuary.

On Bute they would be visible from the B881 Crossbeg to Ambrisbeg road, the West Island Way at Lochend, the entrance to Roseland Chalet Park via High Bogany and Loch Ascog to Mid Ascog farm, from the A844 at The Hermitage to Ascog Bay, from part of the moor road, from Rothesay Golf Club, Rothesay Bowling Club, Ardbrannan Riding Centre, Loch Ascog, the Ballochgoy and Barone housing developments, Auchnacloich Road and many other locations.

Even the applicant’s own ‘Non-Technical Summary’ states that ‘significant effects would be limited to an area of 3km from the nearest proposed wind turbine’. This, in fact, would mean that not only all areas of the island mentioned above would be affected, but also far greater numbers of residents and businesses. A distance of 3km would encompass the whole of Rothesay.

In complete contrast to all of this potential visual destruction, environmental degradation, damage to tourism, and the daily disturbance for our residents, the applicants themselves will encounter nothing at all.

They do not live on the island, they live in England, and will only experience the plight of others when they spend time here on occasional visits.

Also, to infer that the power generated by such a scheme could in any way result in a significant protection of the planet and cheaper electricity for the local population is highly misleading.

In addition, at times of no wind, very high wind and, ironically, during major power cuts, the turbines can not operate at all, and therefore can not produce any electricity.

This is a highly speculative, commercial proposal, with potentially huge financial rewards for the applicants, and the truth may, in fact, point to the exact opposite of everything suggested in the application.

Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are produced during the initial production, installation and ultimate dismantling of turbines, with the net cost of one unit of energy produced by wind power, many times that of conventional fuels.

Rather than cheap or cheaper electricity, the whole nation contributes hugely in the form of subsidies to providers and higher electricity bills for everyone.

At present, Bute is an area of outstanding beauty, combined with a rare and peaceful tranquillity. It is a wonderful place to live in and to visit, and needs to be protected for all islanders and the generations to follow.

Progress, development and financial viability are essential, but surely we must all take responsibility not to destroy the very obvious essence and soul of this remarkable environment.

The close proximity to homes, the potential damage to tourism, wildlife, and the environmental and health issues are obvious, as is the certainty that many families and their properties would be seriously harmed, and the visual blight of this beautiful area of Scotland guaranteed.

These are some of the main objections to the application.

The site is not suitable. It is too close to residential properties, listed buildings, businesses and would affect the health and wellbeing of people in the area.

There is increasing researched based evidence indicating the potential physical and emotional impact on communities living close to wind turbines.

Wind energy is not free. We all pay for these turbines through increased energy bills.

The electricity generated would go straight to the grid. It is not for Bute residents.

It would have a highly visual impact with adverse effects on tourism, and therefore the economy of not only local businesses, but the whole island.

Ascog Farm was not even a preferred site in the study commissioned by TZCB (Towards Zero Carbon Bute) and is in an area of scenic beauty and green belt, an area of SSI and the proposal contravenes the Local Plan for Bute.

These turbines do not produce the results claimed and can cause major problems with flicker, vibration, noise, a reduction in property values, a danger to wildlife, and the quality of daily life for local residents.

The Argyll and Bute Landscape Wind Energy Capacity Study, prepared in March 2012 by Scottish Natural Heritage for Argyll and Bute Council, states: “There is no scope to accommodate turbines above 50m height within the smaller scale, settled coastal/loch fringes and islands due to their increased landscape sensitivity to tall turbines.”

The same study also says that “some coastal and island landscapes would be highly sensitive even to turbines below 20m” (page 3) and that “cumulative landscape impacts could be associated with larger scale (above 50m) turbine development being sited on Bute which appears largely undeveloped in comparison with the highly modified mainland coastal area to the east” (page 51).

According to the study, there are many constraints on wind farm development on Bute, including “the relatively low elevation of the southern hills, and presence of nearby small buildings, which could be dominated by larger turbines” (page 52).

There is “likely to be very limited scope” for turbines 35-50 metres high to be located within the landscape, and turbines “should not be sited on prominent hill tops or steep slopes”.

As very concerned residents of Bute we humbly ask all members of the council to listen to our grave concerns about this potentially damaging proposal.

Please help us to protect the island of Bute, our residents, our valuable, fragile tourist sector, and this unique and precious environment that is our home.

John Thomas, Balmory Hall, Ascog


Mr Tear has written off Bute

Sir - “Bute is expensive to get to, the weather is frequently poor, there are few indoor activities and there are many alternative locations”. “No one owns the view...Tourists might be put off by Rothesay being nominated for the notorious Plook on the Plinth award.”

These quotes are from Adrian Tear’s website. It sounds like he has completely written Bute off as a tourist destination. What a bleak picture he paints of our beautiful island.

How disappointing for the many of us who live and work hard here and whose income is solely reliant upon tourists visiting Bute that he has such a negative outlook.

Mr Tear doesn’t think tourism will be affected if he gets permission for his turbines. He uses the VisitScotland study that found the vast majority of potential visitors would not be discouraged from visiting Scotland on account of wind farm developments.

Unfortunately this is based on seriously out-of-date research conducted at a time when there was just ten per cent of the current number of turbines currently operating and they were much smaller in height.

There are, sadly, another five times as many turbines in planning. I see this as being the biggest threat ever to tourism in Scotland and yet VisitScotland has still not undertaken any new research.

A poll by the John Muir Trust, released on November 4, 2012, shows that 43 per cent of people in Britain who visit scenic areas in the UK for their natural heritage and beauty would be ‘less likely to visit a scenic area with a large concentration of wind farms’. In Scotland, 36 per cent who would be less likely to visit.

These three turbines, if granted, could open the floodgates to more developments at Toward and the surrounding areas such as the controversial Black Craig.

A 36 to 43 per cent decrease in visitors would be devastating to Bute’s already fragile tourist economy. If we wait until the visitors stop coming because all they see from every mountain, hill or boat is a wind farm – then it is too late!

Mr Tear has invited people to ‘amuse’ themselves by reading the letters sent into The Buteman. I doubt anyone who takes the time to write to The Buteman or the local planners with genuine concerns about the future of Bute is amused. Each letter is genuine and heartfelt and does not deserve his flippancy. Tourism is our lifeblood.

I agree with Mr Tear in his statement that ‘you can’t own a view’. You can however, cherish it, which I know my visitors do. I talk to hundreds of them every year and they are all bowled over by the outstanding scenery and how unspoilt Bute is.

According to Scottish National Heritage, the proportion of Scotland’s land visually unaffected by man-made structures fell from 41 per cent in 2002 to 28 per cent by the end of 2009.

“The most significant contributor to this decline,” according to SNH, “is the development of wind farms, a consequence of their prominence and extensive visibility and siting in rural locations with little or no previous development.

“At the moment, the rapid expansion of wind farms represents the biggest threat to our remaining wild land.”

I hope common sense will prevail and this application goes no further.

Susie Alcorn, Ascog Hall Gardens and Victorian Fernery, Ascog


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