A successful public exhibition has given residents around Wanlockhead the chance to learn more about a proposed windfarm project being developed in partnership by Buccleuch and 2020 Renewables.
The project, named ‘The North Lowther Energy Initiative’, is in the early stages of development and the event, held at Wanlockhead Village Hall on Wednesday, gave the community the chance to view visual information boards relating to some of the initial feasibility studies that have been carried out during the course of the last six months, and also put questions to the project team.
Located to the north west of Wanlockhead, it is envisaged that a maximum of 42 wind turbines will be erected within the development, each with a capacity of around 3.6MW. This will give the windfarm a maximum installed capacity of 151MW.
The windfarm would create 100-150 construction jobs over a four-year period with 5-6 operational jobs on completion. The community benefit would be £5000 per MW in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines.
North Lowther Energy Initiative also propose to create an extensive and detailed habitat management plan to accompany the development. A number of options are currently under consideration; including potential on-site habitat restoration / enhancement, or a focus on improving habitats within the Special Protection Area (SPA). Alternatively, a more wide ranging scheme across a wider geographical area may be considered. Work is currently ongoing to determine which of the options is most appropriate and achievable.
A planning application has yet to be submitted and consultation will continue with residents, local community councils and businesses prior to and during that process. Wednesday’s exhibition follows a meeting held between Buccleuch, 2020 Renewables and Wanlockhead Village Council in June. Some of the feedback which was received at this meeting has been incorporated into the revised plans.
Alasdair MacLeod, Development Director at 2020 Renewables, said: “The exhibition on Wednesday was a positive event and our appreciation goes to local residents who took the time to visit, learn more about the proposals and provide some initial feedback to the project team.
“The initiative is still at very early stages, and no formal planning application has been made. We wanted to share with the community some of the information we have received through feasibility studies and ensure that residents are informed about the aspirations for the project. A scoping report will also be undertaken and submitted to the Scottish Government, Dumfries and Galloway Council and other statutory consultees before further pre-application consultation with local communities.
“Assessments of the site so far allowed us to present visuals for how the project might look from various viewpoints around Wanlockhead, and our studies so far have also shown that there is no visual impact to residents around Leadhills.
“Such exhibitions are informative for both developers and the community, rather than a promotion of the scheme itself. We are thankful for the feedback so far and we will continue to engage as the project develops.”
Duncan Mackison, Chief Operating Officer at Buccleuch, said: “We realise that energy projects can generate mixed feelings amongst local communities but we are committed to speaking to as many individuals, groups and businesses as possible to gain the widest possible feedback.
“The exhibition saw a number of residents provide us with their early views but we would emphasise that this is still at an early feasibility stage and there will be further events that will provide more detailed information.
“Buccleuch is a commercial farming and forestry business. We look, like any other farmer, to make the best possible use of our assets to deliver returns that can be used to maintain levels of employment and investment in the area. We therefore always look at opportunities to diversify activities where those criteria can be met and this is such an example.
“In recent months, I have personally engaged with the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway, the Museum of Lead Mining and Lowther Hills Ski Club. In addition to this, we are actively discussing with the Village Council other land related matters which will deliver benefits for inhabitants, such as potential leases for the use of the curling pond, the bowling green, football ground and the car park. Where in each case we need to understand fully the future intended purpose of those facilities, for safe use by all those living in the community. These day to day request are in no way being linked to the progression, or not, of the wind farm.
“It is important that we listen to both positive and negative feedback that may exist so that all views, not just a handful, are taken account of. This will allow us to address concerns as the project develops and also take account of how we can help the community realise its own aspirations through the benefits of this initiative.”