Locals back wind farm boost for East Ayrshire communities

September 2, 2014 | Community News

Plans to deliver a new wind farm, east of New Cumnock, have received the overall support of local community members who attended a recent set of public exhibitions.

Residents and business owners from East Ayrshire and Upper Nithsdale were given the opportunity to examine plans and learn about proposed benefits the site could bring to the area at events held in New Cumnock and Kelloholm.

Staff from Banks Renewables, the wind energy company behind the proposal for the 26 turbine Lethans Wind Farm were on hand to discuss any queries local people had about the plans.

Locals from the communities surrounding the proposed site attended the events, with most expressing their support for the wind farm, believing it could create a long lasting, positive legacy for the area.

Colin Anderson, development director at Banks Renewables, said: “The relationship we have built up with the local community over the past two and a half years has been very positive.

“This was the sixth public exhibition that we have held and we’ve also attended multiple community council meetings and met directly with local people and community groups.  So it is pleasing that our community-focused approach has helped our plans earn local backing.

“While the turnout at the public exhibitions could have been stronger, this is a very secluded site and it was heartening to see the support shown by those who did come along.

“Overall the local people were positive about the plans, citing the environmental benefits as well as the boost it could bring to the local economy as the primary reasons for their support.”

With the construction costs valued at an estimated £105 million with a potential £21 million worth of contracts to be allocated to local firms, the site promises to create a welcome financial boost to the local economy which has suffered in recent years due to the closure of its coal mines.

If approved, Banks Renewables has also planned for a community partnership agreement which could see the community benefiting from 2.5% of the wind farm revenues for the local area, this will be underwritten with a commitment to contribute £5,000 per MW installed capacity– which has the potential to be up to £15 million over the 25 year lifetime of the project.

Agnes Parker, who lives in Kirkconnel, commended Banks Renewables for its plans and was impressed by its focus on talking to the people living closest to the proposed site. She said: “When I first heard about the proposed Lethans wind farm, I immediately wanted to find out more to see what it could bring to the local area.

“Although some of the plans can be quite technical, the staff were extremely helpful in putting everything into layman’s terms so that we could fully understand it.

“Ultimately, I am completely supportive of Banks’ plans. They have gone about the whole process in such a responsible way by keeping local people involved at each stage of the planning process.

“I was particularly impressed by the virtual fly through that was showcased at the public exhibitions which allowed us to see how the site would really look. I was even able to see my house on the map, which really helped put it all in perspective.

“Now really is the time to start taking renewable energy seriously and as the effect on the landscape will be so limited due to how remote the proposed site is, I can’t see any valid reason as to why it shouldn’t go ahead.”

A key part of the proposals is Banks Renewables commitment to directing revenue from the electricity generated to provide funding to help deliver the recently launched community action plans. This means local priorities as identified by local people could receive substantial support.

Agnes added: “The area is crying out for investment and the fact that the wind farm could create jobs and opportunities for businesses as well as helping to support worthwhile local groups while producing clean energy makes it a win-win situation for all.”

The Lethans exhibitions took place at the New Cumnock Community Centre on Wednesday,  August 20 and Hillview Leisure Centre on Thursday, August 21 where there was also an opportunity to discuss the progression and development of sister site High Cumnock.

Feedback forms, detailing the views of the local people were collated at the exhibitions which will now be analysed to help shape the final plans that Banks Renewables hope to submit to the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit in October 2014.

Colin Anderson added: “Engaging with those living and working around our sites is at the forefront of everything we do. During these exhibitions not only did we take the chance to inform, but also a fantastic opportunity to listen to feedback on our suggested proposals.

“In light of this we are now looking forward to submitting our plans and steering our proposals through the final stages of the planning process.”

For more information on the Lethans project please visit: www.banksgroup.co.uk//lethans

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