NORTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL 29th March 2021

Planning Committee

Locality North Coast and Cumbraes Reference 20/00248/PPM Application Registered 27th April 2020 Decision Due 27th August 2020 Ward North Coast And Cumbraes Recommendation Refused Location Site To East Of Fardens Skelmorlie Ayrshire Applicant Rigghill Wind Farm Ltd Mr Fraser Campbell Proposal Erection of 10 wind turbines with a maximum blade tip height of 149.9m with associated access and infrastructure

1. Description

Planning permission is sought for the erection of 10 wind turbines, with a maximum blade tip height of 149.9m, and associated access and infrastructure, at a site known as east of Fardens, Skelmorlie. The site is approx. 1km east of Skelmorlie at its closest point although it lies largely to the south-east of the majority of the settlement of Skelmorie. The residential property of Fardens sits within the site as does Barr Farm.

The site would be accessed on its western side from Craigmarloch Road. There are residential properties immediately adjacent to this part of the site, including Thirdpart Farm and Meigle House. There are approx. 10 other residential properties within 100m of this part of the site at Meigle and 5 residential properties within 100m of this part of the site to the south along the access road to Barr Farm. The site is also immediately adjacent to the Barr Hill Camp site.

The site is approx. 332hectares in area. The turbines would be sited a minimum of approx. 320m apart. The turbines and associated hardstanding would each have an approx. area of some 0.3ha and the access tracks would be approx. 7.44mm in length. The access tracks would be approx. 5m wide. There would be a substation hard standing approx. 0.33ha in area. There would be borrow pits for construction taken from an area of approx. 0.46ha.

The closest turbine would be some 305m (No. 10) from Fardens, 620m (No. 3) from Barr Farm, 900m (No. 3) from Barr Hill Camp, 900m (No. 3) from Michaelston, 960m (No. 3) from The Dykes, 1.45km (No. 10) from Skelmorlie Mains Caravan Park and 1.5km (No. 10) from the settlement of Skelmorlie. There are other residential properties within 2km of the turbines at Meigle and in Brisbane Glen

The application site is identified in the Local Development Plan ("LDP"), adopted November 2019, as countryside. It is part of the mainland Special Landscape Area and is within the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park ("the Park"). The site encompasses part of the Skelmorlie Glen Site of Special Scientific Interest ("the SSSI"). It also encompasses part of the Skelmorlie Glen & Fardens Glen Local Nature Conservation Sites ("the LNCS"). The site is immediately adjacent, on its north-eastern boundary, to the Renfrewshire Heights Special Protection Area ("the SPA") which is also a SSSI and is some 500m to the west, at its closest point, of the Outerwards Roman fortlet Scheduled Monument. The access to the site would be along Routenburn Road, which runs through the Knock Castle and Routenburn LNCS for approx. 1.5km.

The application falls within the category of "major" development, in terms of The Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Developments) (Scotland) Regulations 2009. A pre-application consultation (PAC) was required and a PAC notice was received 11th November 2019 (ref: 19/00856/PREAPM).

The proposal was screened and scoped in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 on the 17th September 2019 (ref: 19/00608/EIA). It was determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be required and details of the scope was given. The originally scoped proposal was for 12 turbines and did not include the access area at the western end of the site. However, it is not considered these changes would have made any significant difference to the scoping assessment.

An EIA has been submitted. Following initial consultation responses, further information for the EIA was submitted by the applicants. The EIA includes consideration of the following:

Design Iteration and Site Selection

The EIA states that the site was selected as part of a nationwide search for sites. 120 sites were considered and approx. 20 sites selected for further study of which this was one. The EIA claims that this site is considered to benefit from a number of opportunities as a wind farm site including; good wind resources, lack of peat or geological designations, contained landscape and visual effects, lack of designated cultural heritage and the land being predominantly low-quality agricultural land. The constraints of the site are identified as being principally; ornithological receptors, landscape and visual constraints, cultural heritage outwith the site boundary, ecological constraints, and hydrology.

The design iterations were developed on principles of maximising wind yield, avoiding peat where possible, with minimum buffers between: turbines and watercourses, woodland bat features and known and potential bat roosts, the Renfrewshire Heights SPA, and avoiding inconsistent turbine spacing. The proposed layout is claimed to represent the seventh turbine layout and the third infrastructure layout.

Landscape and Visual Impact

The report assesses the landscape and visual effects of the proposal. It concludes that there would be significant effect within a 4-5km radius. Viewpoints within 12km of the site would be significantly affected by the development. It is not considered there would be any cumulative impact with existing development.

Ornithology

This report assesses the impact on birds by the construction and operation of the development. It states that many species were noted on the site. No raptor including hen harrier was found to be breeding. Several grassland and moorland birds, some of which are of conservation concern were recorded during the breeding season. Mitigation measures, to be overseen by an Ecological Clerk of Works, including timing of works and pre-construction checks and exclusion zones during breeding season are advised. Impacts on protected species, including hen harrier would be low or barely perceptible through both construction and operation.

Ecology and Nature Conservation

This report advises that the site is primarily grassland habitat with the north-eastern locations being shallow moorland blanket bog. The Skelmorlie Glen is a mixture of wet and oak woodland, with other areas of oak woodland extending up the burns. The woodland is classed as Ancient (of seminatural origin). Otter use was found to be extremely limited, partially explained by an unpassable gorge waterfall for migratory fish. Badger use of the Skelmorlie Glen area was established. Bat species were identified using the area with potential roosting features along the rout of the main site access.

It is considered that there would be no significant effects on habitats or species. Mitigation measures including implementation of a Construction Environmental Management Plan are proposed.

Noise Assessment

This report assesses potential noise effect from construction, operation, and decommissioning. Noise, vibration, and low frequency noise has been reviewed. It concludes that low frequency noise and infrasound associated with wind turbines are below the level are which adverse health effects occur. It is not possible to predict potential amplitude modulation, but this matter can be controlled by condition should it occur in operation.

In terms of noise and vibration, it concludes that such impacts from construction would meet threshold noise levels with mitigation measures in place. In terms of operation the assessment concludes that noise levels would be exceeded at properties to the west and south-west during the day. However, it is claimed that this matter could be addressed through turbine selection or an operational noise management plan such that any effect could be considered as not significant.

Cultural Heritage

Thirty-one heritage assets are within the site ranging from the Roman to the modern period. It is acknowledged there is potential for hitherto unknown archaeological interest within the site. It is claimed that the development would have a minor effect on the route of a possible Roman road between Laxlie Hill and Blackhouse Manor. The indirect effect on the setting of thirty-seven designated heritage sites has been considered. It is claimed there would be a moderate and significant effect on the setting of Outerwards, Roman fortlet. The locations of the turbines have been selected to try and minimise any effect on the setting including a 1km buffer from the fortlet.

Geology, Peat, Hydrology and Hydrogeology

This report assesses the potential impact on geology, peat, hydrology, and hydrogeology. It states that twenty-four new water crossings would be required, and one existing crossing upgraded. There are some localised pockets of peat to depths of less than 1m. Potential impacts include changes to groundwater flow; removal of, and impact on, peat; pollution impact from silt-laden runoff and chemical contaminated runoff; impact from soil compaction; impact on integrity of banking; direct discharge of untreated foul drainage; impact on fluvial geomorphology; impact on fluvial flood risk on-site and downstream; and impact on surface water drainage. With appropriate mitigation measures it is considered that the residual effects would be negligible or minor.

Socio-economic, Recreation and Tourism

This report states that the site would generate a negligible benefit to the North Ayrshire and Scottish economies in construction and operation. It is claimed that thirty-three jobs locally could be supported during construction and five local jobs supported during operation. It is not considered by the report that there would be any significant effects on tourism and recreation in the area.

Aviation and Radar

There have not been any identified effects on aviation and radar from construction, operation or decommissioning of the proposal.

Shadow Flicker

This report assesses likely 'shadow flicker,’ the effect of moving parts passing in front of the sun and casting a flickering shadow through the openings of properties. It concludes that the potential for such flicker would only be within 1.17km from each turbine, 130 degrees either side of north. It concludes that significant shadow flicker would be experienced at Barr Farm and Barr Hill Camp (chalets). However, it states that this impact could be overcome by a Wind Farm Shadow Flicker Protocol which could include selective shutdown of certain turbines under certain conditions. This protocol could be agreed with the Council.

Telecommunication

There have not been any potential effects on existing and planned telecommunications equipment is assessed.

In addition to the EIA, the following documents have been submitted in support of the application:

PAC report

The PAC report notes the publicity measures undertaken and the public events held. The report notes the large attendances. It summarises that the majority of feedback was supportive of renewable energy, although there was opposition to these proposals. Concerns related to noise, the location in the Regional Park, visibility, access, cultural heritage, and infrasound. It was considered positive that the proposal had dropped from 33 turbines to 10 turbines. It is noted that this application has always been for 10 turbines, although the EIA was scoped at 12 turbines, and the Council was not been presented with any pre-application information relating to 33 turbines. The report concludes that the process has allowed the applicants to better understand concerns and they have, where possible, provided further information or engagement to try and address concerns.

Planning Statement

The planning statement describes the proposed development, summarises the planning background, and policy context.

The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 ("the Act") states that when determining planning applications regard shall be had to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and to any other material considerations.

The relevant policies of the Local Development Plan adopted November 2019 (LDP) are Strategic Policy 1: The Countryside Objective; Strategic Policy 2: Placemaking; Policy 6: Supporting Sustainable Tourism; Policy 12: Scheduled Monuments; Policy 13: Non-designated Archaeological Sites and Monuments; Policy 15: Landscape and Seascape; Policy 16: Protection of our Designated Sites; Policy 17: Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park; Policy 18: Forestry, Woodland, Trees and Hedgerows; Policy 22: Water Environment Quality; Policy 29: Energy Infrastructure Development; Policy 34 Protecting Peatland and Carbon Rich Soils. The Council has approved a Landscape Wind Capacity Study October 2018.

2. Consultations and Representations

Neighbour notification was carried out and the application was advertised both on receipt and after the submission of further information for the EIA. There have been 186 objections received, 39 support comments and 1 neutral representation. The objections can be summarised as follows;

1. Policy. The proposal is contrary to North Ayrshire Council Local Development Plan, in particular with regard to the landscape, protecting designated sites and the Windfarm Spatial Framework. It is contrary to Policy 18 which seeks to protect forestry, woodland, trees, and hedgerows. It is contrary to the Landscape Capacity Study. The Scottish Government's Wind Turbine Spatial Framework was amended 14th January 2020 and states areas such a National Parks and National Scenic Areas would not be acceptable for wind farm developments. The proposal is contrary to SNH (NS) guidance. Major wind development should be directed offshore.

Response: An assessment of the proposal against the relevant policies is given below. SNH (now NatureScot) was consulted and the response is summarised below.

2. Turbine type. There are no land-based turbines which individually generate 4.2MW of power. The applicant has provided no specific detail of the actual turbine type. It is not considered that a 4.2MW land turbine exists. Turbines of this power rating should not be erected on land. These should be at least 10km from habitable buildings. There are no 150m high turbines on land in Scotland. The site could accommodate much smaller turbines.

Response: The exact details of the turbine specification could be secured by condition if permission was granted. The Council's Landscape Capacity Study suggests part of this site could potentially be suitable for turbines up to 70m in height.

3. Infrasound and low-frequency noise. The information provided by the applicant has not been prepared by medics and therefore not qualified to comment on the effects on the human body. There are discrepancies in the information where documents relied on are incorrectly referenced. The alleged power rating of 4.2Mw would lead to very low frequency noise which would adversely impact on health. This impact can cause sleep deprivation, severe head pain, tinnitus, and contribute to other diseases and conditions. The testing of high-powered turbines at Hunterston caused these effects. Such frequency noise is not naturally occurring and can penetrate structures so that it is not possible to block it out inside a property.

World Health Organisation guidelines recognise that there are issues with the way noise exposure from turbines is assessed. The effect of such turbines on humans is not known. Other countries have banned such turbines and health experts have acknowledged the harm from infrasound. Nothing can be done to control this effect as it occurs when the turbine turns in the wind even if electricity is not being generated. Environmental Health does not monitor this type of noise and there is no way to mitigate such noise.

Response: Health Protection Scotland has given comments in respect of impact on health which are summarised below.

4. Other noise. Non-low frequency noise would impact on those living close the site. There are many properties within 2km of the site. There would be disturbance from amplitude modulation. This disturbance would affect the village of Skelmorlie. The peaceful nature of the area would be lost. Residents of houses in close proximity would not be able to sleep due to noise and would also suffer daytime impacts. The closest houses would be subject to constant noise nuisance. Noise nuisance would violate Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Houses may become uninhabitable. The effect of noise may make farming impossible due to impacts on animal welfare from noise.

Response: North Ayrshire Council Environmental Health was consulted, and the comments received are below. There are statutory powers in respect of noise nuisance, but only applies in certain circumstances.

5. Proximity to houses. The closest house, not part of the application, is between 940 and 1125m from three turbines. The visual impact on these properties would be very imposing. The Planning Committee should visit these properties. The turbines would be within 2km of Skelmorlie, approx. 1.5km at the closest point. The proposed 'micro-siting’ of 50m could

bring them closer. The scale of the turbines is inappropriate for this setting. The visual impact would be exacerbated by the pylon connection. The closest properties could be in danger from blade or ice thrown from the turbines. They could also be impacted by shadow flicker. There is a Bill to set a minimum distance of 2km between this type of turbine and a house. The proposal would also adversely affect the Skelmorlie Conservation Area.

Response: It is understood the Bill referred to is the Wind Turbines (Minimum Distances from Residential Premises) Bill from 2012 which was not put forward to the House of Lords a second time and as such did not become law. In addition, that Bill appears to have referred to England only. The proximity to residential properties and the settlement is considered below. It is not considered there would be any significant impact on the Skelmorlie Conservation Area.

5. Visual Impact. The proposal would ruin the scenery. This would have impacts on the eastern shore of Bute. The turbines would be visible from the Cowal Peninsula. The turbines would be very prominent to those living on the western side of the Clyde and from beyond the west of south Bute. The proposed colour would make them stand out against the hill side. This would introduce an alien industrial development. Views from local landmarks and walking routes on the mainland would be impacted. The seascape would be impacted ruining the view of seafarers. The lighting required by the MOD would add to the impact.

The North Ayrshire Landscape Wind Capacity Survey states that such development would have an impact on the Firth of Clyde and the Islands. The Survey finds that there is limited scope for very large turbines such as this. There is no scope for turbines over 70m in this area. Inverclyde Council considers its adjacent area to be highly sensitive to turbines over 50m.

Sites which have permission would be subject of future planning applications to increase the height of the turbines. As such it is very important that the right sites are selected, and this is not such a site.

Response: Noted. An assessment of the visual impact is given below. It is agreed that if permission were granted, the site could be considered established as a place for turbines as per Scottish Government advice.

6. Access/Roads. The proposed route is unsuitable for HGVs. The centre of Fairlie and Largs are narrow and unsuitable for such vehicles. Routenburn Road is a popular route for non-motorised travel. The route would impact on the users of the local golf course as it links parts of the course. Reconstructing the road would impact on the users including those requiring it when the A78 is closed. The application fails to significantly recognise the use of the road as a relief road for the A78. Weekend work would have further impact. Use by an HGV would effectively close the road to traffic coming in the opposite direction. Those who live or operate a business on the road would be greatly affected by noise and lack of access.

It is questionable whether it is possible to widen the road to the required standard. Road widening would result in the loss of hedgerow. Widening the road would encourage faster speeds, changing the nature of the road. Who would pay for such works and who would maintain the road? There are services along the verge which cannot be covered by tarmac. Parts of the land required to widen the road are privately owned. The applicant has not discussed this with the landowners.

There is no guarantee that construction traffic would not use routes from the north, despite the submitted documents. The amount of increased traffic will be disruptive and dangerous. Emergency access would be impossible for prolonged periods. A 14-month construction period is unacceptable. There would be safety implications for the road.

There is not enough detail in respect of the junction with Craigmarloch Road or the distances to nearby properties. There is also not enough detail about the relationship with overhead powerlines or how water courses would be crossed. The field for the proposed access has drainage problems that causes water to exit onto the road. The traffic surveys in November do not give a true picture of usage. There are potentially more suitable access routes and the applicants must be considering a more direct route from the A78 not detailed in the application. They should consider using land owned by the owner of the land for the wind farm. The Traffic Assessment is inadequate.

Response: North Ayrshire Council Active Travel and Transportation's comments are below. Further information was sought but not provided by the applicant. It is noted that there may be privately owned roads/land adjacent to the road which the applicant does not have control over.

7. Regional Park. The Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park Consultative Forum objects to the proposal. The proposal would negatively impact on the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. All turbines within the North Ayrshire part of the Park are south of the A760, except one single consented, but not built, turbine to the north. This part of the park is a designated scenic area. Part of the park, a short distance to the east, is designated Wild Land. The development would result in turbines being visible through the park.

The proposal is contrary to the aims of the CMRP which are to conserve and enhance the beauty, biodiversity and cultural heritage, and encourage enjoyment of the park and promote and foster environmentally sustainable development for the social and economic well-being of the people and communities of the area. The park provides exercise, recreation, and mental peace for an area of Scotland with poor health, which would be undermined by the proposal.

Figures relating to park usage are misleading. The only recording of visitor numbers is at Visitor Centres and does not reflect true usage of the park. Those visiting other areas are not included. Surveys by the Park Authority indicate visitors most value: scenery, tranquillity, wildlife, and accessibility. The development of a wind farm would undermine those factors and the area is already accessible. Once a wind farm is consented in the regional park it would be subject to repeated expansions as per the wind farms south of the A760.

Response: Noted. An assessment of the proposal in terms of the Park is set out below.

8 Archaeology/Roman fort/historical. There is a Roman fortlet near the site, which is a scheduled monument. It is the southernmost of a defensive chain linked to the Antonine Wall. This would have been a watchtower over the Clyde. Siting turbines in this location would impact on the importance of the site as you would not be able to appreciate the function and setting of the fortlet. There are other historic features linked to the Roman period and later in the site and nearby which would be affected. The access route runs through the former Knock Castle Estate and would affect that Grade A listed building and other nearby listed buildings.

Response: HES was consulted and object on the grounds of the impact on the fortlet. The response is summarised below. An assessment of the proposal in respect of LDP policies relating to the historic environment is given below.

9. SSSI/SPA/Wildlife. The site is a SSSI which would be negatively impacted. The site is adjacent to an SPA. Loss of verges would result in habitat loss for species which live on the edge of improved farmland. Reports relating to wildlife have not been published. The development would impact on ground nesting birds and raptors, including hen harriers and ospreys. There are several species of endangered bird. Curlews and black grouse live on the site.

Skelmorlie Glen is an Ancient Woodland of Semi-Natural Origin as designated on the Ancient Woodland Inventory. The Woodland Trust objects to the loss and damage that would be caused to the Ancient Woodland. Scottish Planning Policy states ancient semi-natural woodland is an irreplaceable resource and should be protected from adverse impacts resulting from the development. Trees would be removed and damaged with increased risk of pollution and disturbance to wildlife.

Response: An assessment of potential effects on these issues is set out below. Reports submitted with information relating to protected species are not made public in the interest of the specific species.

10. Pollution/water. The bases for turbines cannot be removed and these, and the quarry for the aggregate risks water and ground pollution. There are watercourses within and adjacent to the site which could be polluted as could private water supplies. Silting of watercourses would affect salmonids and similar fish species. The survey of watercourses is considered to be incomplete as some are missed. The carbon footprint of carrying out this development including construction traffic, connecting to the grid and maintenance would be huge. The turbines are made of materials which waste natural resources. A bond should be secured to ensure removal at the end of lifespan to ensure the works are carried out and the operator does not avoid responsibility.

The information supplied in relation to private water supplies is inaccurate. The source of a private water supply for the closest houses, not part of the application, is depicted to be 50m south of its actual position. It is actually within 70m of the access track between Turbine 1 and Turbine 2. This has the potential to disrupt and contaminate the water supply.

Response: SEPA has objected as set out below. Further information has been provided by the applicant but SEPA has not provided any further response.

11. Tourism. The development would adversely affect tourism. Visitors would be put off the area and the areas on the west side of the Clyde which are highly dependent on tourism. Views from Mount Stuart House would be spoiled as would those from the Wemyss Bay/Rothesay ferry route. The view from the Clyde is increasingly important as cruise ships call at Greenock. There are marina developments in North Ayrshire and Inverclyde which could be impacted if the visual appearance from the sea is compromised. 2020 has been designated the 'Year of Coasts and Waters.' The applicants’ claim that the main source of tourism in the area is fishing is wrong. The local holiday parks would be impacted. They have not considered the holiday and caravan parks on the north side of the Kelly Burn. The

Core Paths would be affected, particularly NC10 (Largs to Meigle) which would be closed during construction.

Response: North Ayrshire Council Environmental Health has concerns on the potential impact on caravans/chalets. An assessment of the impact on tourism is set out below.

12. Economic. This proposal would be of no benefit to consumers’ energy bills. The proposal would impact on the value of nearby houses. Given the infrastructure costs, it is not clear how this proposal is viable. Wind turbines are unreliable, due to the nature of wind, and need to be backed up by other forms of energy generation. Onshore wind is only viable due to government grants. There would be no local jobs created with contractors from elsewhere used.

The applicant stated at public meetings that there would be community benefit by way financial payments. There were not any details as to how this would be administered. Such benefit needs to be a fair reflection of the scale and size of the development.

Response: The viability of the development would be a matter for any developer. If granted, permission could be conditioned to require restoration, and associated bonds, should the develop commence and subsequently cease operation.

Financial benefits are not material considerations in relation to this planning application. The Supreme Court confirmed 20th November 2019 (Wright v Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd and Forest of Dean District Council) that, in relation to a wind turbine application, the promise of community funding was an immaterial consideration as it was unconnected to the use of the land in question.

13. Omissions from EIA: No mention is made of the possibility of fire in a nacelle, which happened in Ardrossan. Such a fire could be difficult to put out given the proposed height, location, and potential to affect peat. There are no documents to support the claim that it would not generate greenhouse gas emissions, save fossil fuel use, and generate money for the community.

Response: It is considered that the information submitted is sufficient for the determination of the planning application.

14. Public consultation. Despite attending the public consultation some objectors were not contacted directly about this application. The applicant did not give the details of the power ratings at the public events. Points raised with the applicant at those meetings have not been addressed. Information given at the events is no longer correct. The applicant has given no notification of the changes which have been made to the scope of the development. 10 x 4.2MW turbines are materially different to the scheme presented at the public meetings. A public event should have been held in Rothesay. The applicant refers to the site as Rigghill Windfarm, but the application is for site to East of Fardens.

Response: The public consultation events prior to submission were held by the applicant as part of their required consultation. Once the application has been submitted, the Council notify neighbouring properties in accordance with the statutory regulations. The application was also advertised in the local press. The public events were a matter for the developer although it is noted different versions of the proposal appear to have been presented at events. The applicants have presented this as amendments through preliminary

discussions which is not uncommon before a planning application is submitted. The Council has given the site address 'East of Fardens' as it most accurately reflects the site in the context of the nearest addressed property.

15. Submission of application. Why are the Council allowing this application which is contrary to the planning policies? This should not be determined when there is a need for isolation. The public are not able to properly view or discuss the application. This should be continued to allow wider consultation. The Council should heed the advice of the Chief Planner and continue the application.

Response: The assessment of the proposal can only be made fully through an application. The application was submitted prior to the initial Covid-19 emergency. The application can be determined in line with Scottish Government advice.

The support comments can be summarised as follows;

1. Renewable energy. Believe that renewable energy outweighs the visual or other impacts. Onshore wind contributes to the Scottish Government's aim to generate 50% of energy from renewable sources by 2030. Renewable energy should be encouraged wherever possible. The development would pay back any carbon costs of development in 1.4years. This development is most pressing due to the impending decommissioning of Hunterston B. Any impacts on the environment could be mitigated by condition. The historic interest of the area is of no great importance.

Response: Proposals for the production of renewal energy require to be assessed against the LDP and all other material considerations. Planning permissions can be granted conditionally, if considered appropriate and the conditions meet several tests. It is not agreed that the historic assets of the area are of no great importance.

2. Community money/financial benefits. It is understood there would be funds available for the local community to spend. If there is a chance that communities could receive money from the wind farm, this would help the local area. The Council would receive money in business rates. The turbines would allow the farms to diversify and continue to operate.

Response: Financial benefits are not material considerations in relation to this planning application. The Supreme Court confirmed 20th November 2019 (Wright v Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd and Forest of Dean District Council) that, in relation to a wind turbine application, the promise of community funding was an immaterial consideration as it was unconnected to the use of the land in question. The Supreme Court held that it was in effect an attempt to buy planning permission. The promise of a financial contribution which does not relate to the character of the use of the land would never be material in planning terms. It is noted the landowners would benefit from the development and this may assist in the operation of any farms. However, there is no requirement for any profits to be used towards existing farms.

3. Access to countryside. Wind farms development usually encourages people to walk in the countryside as they can walk the route of the access tracks. People would be able to enjoy views across the Clyde from within the site. Improvements to Routenburn Road would be welcomed. Access can support better health. Improved roads would allow better protection from vermin. A 14-month project build would only lead to short lived inconvenience

Response: The potential for access along the tracks is noted. The works required to access the site are considered below.

4. Distance from houses. The 2km separation from settlements is government guidance, not a rule. There are no rules regarding 10km separation. Happy to live 2-3km from such a development.

Response: The government guidance has been incorporated into the Council's LDP which states areas within 2km of settlements would be given significant protection from windfarm development.

5. No health impacts. There is no conclusive evidence that wind farms have an effect on health. There are turbines sited above Skelmorlie already which do not impact on people's health.

Response: Wind turbines can cause noise disturbance which causes nuisance. The closest permitted turbines to Skelmorlie are two 34.4m high turbine some 0.75km to the north-east. Environmental Health was consulted and provides advice from Health Protection Scotland which is set out below.

6. Low visual impact. The details provided by the applicants demonstrate a low visual impact. The height of turbines is difficult to ascertain. These turbines are designed for onshore use. Any impact is outweighed by the benefits. The visibility of the turbines would not put people off visiting the area. The land would be restored after 30 years.

Response: Whilst any permission could be conditioned to require restoration of the site. Should permission be granted, the principle of turbines of this height would be established. Applications to retain turbines beyond any time limit, or replacement turbines of the same visual impact could be made. Subject to there being no material changes in circumstances, such applications would likely be supported. Scottish Government advice states areas identified as suitable for wind farms should be suitable in perpetuity.

7. Job creation. The proposal would provide employment opportunities for the area during the construction, operation, and decommissioning. The land has little use value other than for agriculture. Local firms would receive 5% price advantage when tendering for jobs.

Response: It is noted the construction phase of development would bring jobs to the area. Any promises made by the applicants in terms of tendering is immaterial to this application.

The neutral representation can be summarised as follows:

1. Has the Planning Committee fully considered the health issues, given the elderly profile of residents and has the impact of such a large-scale project been considered in terms of impact on an area with high dependency on tourism?

Response: The Planning Committee would consider the proposal against the LDP and any other material considerations.

Consultations

NAC Environmental Health - Serious reservations in particular; the effect on Skelmorlie Mains Caravan Park and Barr Hill Camp where noise in excess of 9dB and 11dB, respectively, above background at night is predicted. The protection limits are based on built properties and not caravans/cabins. These locations would have no protection under that statutory noise regime. Occupiers of properties at these locations could be adversely affected with the potential for sleep disturbance.

It is also considered the night-time noise levels could affect the occupiers of properties in Caskie Drive and Golf Course Road within Skelmorlie with potential for sleep disturbance. Condition for the operation of any turbines are suggested and information from the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) in respect of noise and infrasound is provided.

The HPS information relates to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines from 2018. The guidelines recommend that noise levels produced by window turbines should be below 45dB in order to reduce adverse health risks. The WHO conditionally recommend that policymakers implement suitable measures to reduce noise exposure, but no recommendation is made as to what this intervention should be. It is considered that the guidelines do not contradict HPS previous advice relating to turbines given to the Council in 2017.

The 2017 advice was that there is sufficient evidence to link wind turbine noise, including infrasound, to causing annoyance; limited evidence suggesting that a link with sleep disturbance might possibly exist; some evidence that wind turbine noise might have a link with stress but on balance this was inconsistent and therefore inadequate as a basis to describe the link as causal; no evidence for causing hearing loss at typical operating levels; the evidence is considered inadequate to allow any conclusions to be drawn on whether there was or not a causal link with exposure to wind turbine noise for all other impacts considered - fatigue, tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, dizziness, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and others.

Response: Noted.

SEPA - Object to the application. Initially SEPA considered there was a lack of information on Private Water Supplies at/or in the vicinity of the site, insufficient details on the potential ecological impacts, lack of detail on the peat reuse in the Peat Management plan.

Following submission of further information, SEPA advises the objection remains in respect of a lack of information on the use of peat for 'drain blocking.’ SEPA considers other issues can be governed by condition and would further object to any permission granted without the recommended conditions

Response: Further information has been provided by the applicants in respect of peat and Private Water Supplies. However, a further response has not been received from SEPA at present. In the absence of further information, the objection from SEPA is considered to remain extant.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) - Object to the application because of its impact on the setting of the scheduled monument known as Outerwards Roman Fortlet. This is considered to raise issues in the national interest.

It is considered that the EIA underestimates the level of impact on the fortlet. The EIA acknowledges that a key sightline from the fortlet, down Skelmorlie Valley to Arran, Bute and Cumbrae, would be interrupted. The methodology states that this would be a ‘high’ magnitude impact, but the EIA presents the impact as 'medium.' The claim that after decommissioning impacts would be 'neutral' should not be relied on. Para. 170 of Scottish Government's SPP makes clear that areas identified for wind farms should be suitable for use in perpetuity.

The approach taken to consider a series of individual sightlines with emphasis on the land masses on the other side of the Firth of Clyde, rather than the Firth itself is too narrow an approach. It is not agreed that existing modern interventions in the views, such as the ferries, reduce the effect of the turbines. The ferry routes and settlements suggest the importance of the Clyde as a routeway. The importance of the route is likely a key reason for the position of the fort. The distance of 1km to the nearest turbine is considered to reduce the remoteness and forbidding nature of the fortlet and surrounding landscape. No consideration has been given to the current sense that the fortlet is separate and distance from civilian settlement by introducing development between it and the coast.

It is not considered the impact could be mitigated by design and any turbines in this location would likely fundamentally change the vista and have significant adverse effects on the setting of the monument. The additional information submitted has been considered. However, this does not change the above assessment and it is noted the additional information does not alter the original application.

Response: Noted. Should the Council wish to grant against the objection of HES, the Scottish Ministers would have to be notified.

NatureScot (NS) - Advise that the proposal would have significant effects on the wild land quality of "Few human elements within the wild land area in contrast to the surrounding landscape" of the Waterhead Moor - Muirshiel Wild Land Area. The turbines would appear as a prominent human artefact on the sensitive coastal margins of this open rolling plateau, diluting the contrast to the surrounding landscape. Whilst the extent of visibility is relatively limited the effect is significant.

The permitted, but not yet built, turbine at Standingstone Hill (ref: 18/01123/PP) would have a significant effect on this quality of the Wild Land Area. This proposal would give rise to a significant cumulative effect.

It is recommended that the visibility of turbines from the interior be removed.

If permission is granted any permission should be subject to a condition requiring submission of a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) to mitigate any risk to protected species or the Skelmorlie Glen SSSI.

An Appropriate Assessment of the impact on the SPA should be carried out

Response: Noted. An assessment of the visual impact of the development including in terms of the Wild Land Area is given below.

Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) - Object to the proposal. Recognises that onshore wind farms are amongst the most established renewable technologies and supports their development but not in this location. This is because the site is within the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park and would result in environmental damage and not support the Park as an ecologically important visitor destination. The site is also part of the LNCS and the SSSI, which is one of the best examples of semi-natural woodland in North Ayrshire and is listed as an Ancient Woodland. Any incremental loss of such a habitat diminishes natural heritage as it is not possible to recreate it. This is also contrary to Policy 16 of the Council's LDP.

The site is adjacent to the Renfrewshire Heights SPA, designated primarily for breeding Hen Harriers. The presence of this development might diminish the chance of breeding harriers returning by reducing the hunting area available for them. The proposed height of the turbines is problematic. The large swept path volume and rotor tip velocity and infrasound endangers birds and bats. There are several species of bat. It is noted the EIA claims only the Common and Soprano Pipistrelles might be significantly affected. However, SWT suggest risks to high flying Nyctalus species have been underestimated. Rotor tip velocity of 250km/h to 390km/h is an unacceptable risk in an area where bats are feeding and commuting.

It is noted there are 2 active badger sets. Proposals to mitigate through 50m buffer zones and avoiding working at night do not go far enough. The effect of the operation of turbines on badgers living within 1km is known to cause stress in the animals. Whilst there have been limited studies, it is considered that a 50m buffer zone is inadequate and it not possible to create sufficient buffer zones within the site.

Response: Noted. An assessment of the impact on the SPA is appended to this report. If permission is granted, further assessments of the site for protected species could be required by condition particularly given the time between current reports and any likely start date. Buffer zones could be covered in any CEMP, as requested by SNH. It is noted they have no objection in terms of protected species.

Transport Scotland - No objections subject to agreeing abnormal load route with them, additional signage/temporary control measures as necessary and submission of Construction Traffic Management Plan to Council for approval in conjunction with Transport Scotland prior to commencement.

Response: Noted. Conditions addressing these issues could be added to any permission if granted.

NAC Active Travel & Transportation (Roads) - Seek deferral of application due to insufficient information. A larger scale plan showing detailed route from the A78 should be provided. This plan should include where the public road would be widened, existing and propose passing places and visibility splays at junctions. The assessment of general construction traffic, as opposed to abnormal loads, requires further information. The existing geometry at certain junctions needs to be assessed for two-way HGV movements.

Response: The further information was sought from the applicants. However, they did not provide it. The applicants consider that these matters could be dealt with by condition should permission be granted.

NATS Safeguarding - Does not conflict with safeguarding criteria

Response: Noted.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport - Satisfied that all turbines would be shielded from the airport's primary radars

Response: Noted.

Glasgow Airport - The proposal does not conflict with the safeguarding criteria and as such