Included in this week’s letters to the editor are thoughts on the decision to refuse planning perfmission for the Bute Community Power project at Auchintirrie, one reader’s disappointment at the final night of the Pavilion, and criticism of the demolition of the former West Church.
Auchintirrie decision a lost opportunity
In regard to the decision of Argyll and Bute Council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee on September 22 to refuse planning permission for the Bute Community Power project, as reported in last week’s issue, the bottom line is that we, the residents of Bute, lost an estimated £50,000 per annum available for good causes on the island for the sake of not seeing two wind turbines at Auchintirrie farm.
By a casting vote, the committee decided to accept a recommendation from the planning department based on a flawed report.
That report’s arguments for rejection boil down to the subjective assessment that the merits of the proposal – community benefit and consistency with Scottish Government and Argyll and Bute Council policy objectives – are insufficient to compensate for its visual impact.
In making this assessment, the planning department stated they had been more stringent than would otherwise have been the case because installed and consented renewables capacity is such that Scottish Government targets are likely to be met.
This is a misunderstanding of those targets. They are minima to be exceeded, not targets to be hit. The relevant document (Electricity Generation Policy – 2013, Scottish Government), which was not cited in the planners’ report, states that the targets are ‘at least’ the equivalent of one hundred per cent of Scottish electricity consumption for renewables, and ‘at least’ five hundred megawatts for community renewables.
It follows that there is no basis for taking currently installed and consented capacity as justification for being more stringent, i.e. attaching lower weight to the benefits of this project.
The planning department’s case rested heavily on the argument that the proposal
violated the terms of the Argyll and Bute Landscape Wind Energy Capacity Study in relation to the type of landscape at Auchintirrie.
What that study says is that there is ‘very limited scope’ for small/medium turbines in that landscape.
What the report is effectively saying is that there is no scope.
Gigha and Tiree got planning permission for wind turbines. Evidence was provided to the committee that the commissioning of those turbines has had no effect on tourism.
The planners’ report had not mentioned the evidence for Gigha, despite the fact that it was provided to them in May. Nor did it address the question of what differentiated Bute from those islands – why those wind turbines were acceptable, but the Auchintirrie ones were not.
In considering the Bute application, simple common sense would suggest looking at the conditions and experience on similar islands in the
same geographical and local government area.
Given all of this, it is difficult to understand how the committee supported the planners’ recommendation. No doubt some of the members were influenced by the fact that Bute Community Council opposed the granting of permission, and by the NIMBY expressions submitted to the planning department as objections.
Many objections of a similar nature came from people not resident on Bute, who do not suffer the loss of community benefit that rejection entails.
The BCP project at Auchintirrie gave Bute the chance to play its part in addressing the greatest challenge facing humanity, climate change, while at the same time creating a stream of good-cause funding not based on looking for handouts. This at the cost of a modest loss of scenic quality.
It is a great pity that the project will not be going ahead. Given recently announced and anticipated changes to government policy, the committee’s decision means that the opportunity for Bute to have a renewable energy project generating a similar magnitude of community benefit may have been lost for ever.
Park Cottage, Upper Quay Street, Port Bannatyne
Disappointing final night at the Pavilion
It was with great anticipation that my dancing partner and I went to the final dance of the well-loved Rothesay Pavilion before it closed down for a two-year renovation. I had told her that we were in for a night of fond memories and nostalgia.
I couldn’t help reminiscing about the great dances I had attended in past years with the legendary Harry Margolis, Danny Mac and the Dixielanders ,Hugh Mullarky and Ian and Fenick McDougal.
What I had not anticipated was the fact that the two bands booked, no doubt at great expense, would be so woefully out of touch with their audience.
The noise which greeted us as we approached the building gave us a taste of what was to come.
It was deafening. It was mind freezing. Think of silent films and you get the picture how desperately people tried to communicate with one another and failed.
It was almost impossible to carry on a conversation with your closest neighbour not to mention someone sitting opposite you at arm’s length.
The band, if they can be described as such, called themselves Woodenbox. One of my friends said he knew what kind of wooden box he would put them in, if given the chance.
I was told later that five people had been given the wrong drinks at the bar because the staff couldn’t hear what had been ordered.
I can’t believe that the band leader didn’t realise that something was wrong as he must surely have noticed that nobody was up on the floor dancing.
The second band, Orkestra Del Sol, were marginally better, and admittedly very talented, but similarly not in tune with the type of people who were hoping to dance slow foxtrots, quicksteps and waltzes.
In my opinion it was lack of good communication between the organizing committee and the bands that caused so many people to be bitterly disappointed that night.
If this kind of thinking if prevalent to the new Pavilion committee then the future of the building doesn’t look very bright. As Karl Marx said, if supply and demand are not in equilibrium, then there will be no commodity.
Rowan Cottage, Rothesay
Demolition reflects badly on authorities
The destruction of the 1847 West Church in Rothesay is an indictment of how inefficient and myopic Bute councillors are.
This amazing building is the only building of architectural significance in the whole of Bute apart from the castle in Rothesay, Mount Stuart House and the old Academy.
The council has allowed this gem by Charles Wilson, architect of many fine monuments, to stand neglected, unlike his buildings in Glasgow’s Park Circus area. The West Church was clearly his major achievement.
The building appeared to be structurally sound. The saga does not reflect well on the THI - a group supposed to preserve heritage and yet destroying it, not only here but in the Watergate, where it aided the demolition of a historic St Rollox-built oven made of iron - and on the local firm who have the contract to carry out the demolition work.
Who is benefiting here? Not the public, not the tourists and not our heritage.
24 Castle Street, Rothesay