Anti-wind farm activists hold national conference

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HUNDREDS of campaigners have gathered at a conference to join forces against wind farms in Scotland.

The event in Ayr was organised by Communities Against Turbines Scotland (Cats) and was billed as Scotland’s first National Windfarm Conference.

Organisers said about 250 people from across the country attended the Ayrshire event to listen to speeches from politicians, sleep experts, noise researchers and energy industry engineers.

MEP Struan Stevenson, who gave the keynote address, said: “It has been a spectacularly well- attended conference. People have come from all over Scotland and even the north of England to express their concerns.

“I hope the government will take notice of this and start to accept that the policy they are pursuing is damaging to Scotland’s economy and landscape.”

He said the event, at Ayr Racecourse, heard “heart-rending tales” from people whose lives were blighted by turbines, including a woman who lived with hundreds directly outside her house.

He said: “She can’t sell her property and she hasn’t been offered any compensation. It’s scandalous what is going on.”

Susan Crosthwaite, from Cats, said they now planned to form a single group encompassing all organisations fighting wind farms in Scotland, to give a single voice to the cause.

The group would then call on the Scottish Government to put a halt to any new wind farms.

“We want a moratorium on turbines until they really do look at all the facts,” she said.

The event was chaired by South Scotland Labour MSP Graeme Pearson.

He said he had witnessed “a real concern” among communities across the south of Scotland about wind farm development and its impact.

He added: “At the same time fuel poverty and the economics behind these developments seemed mired in complexities.

“This conference will give an opportunity to the public to better understand the issues.”

Other speakers included Iain MacLeod, professor of structural engineering at the University of Strathclyde, and former Power Network director at the National Grid, Colin Gibson.

Dr Chris Hanning, honorary consultant in Sleep Medicine at the University Hospitals of Leicester, also spoke.

Since retirement in 2007, he has spent a lot of time fighting wind turbines because of the effect they have on people’s sleep.

Mathematician Dr Malcolm Swinbanks was invited to talk about his research into the noise of wind turbines.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, also addressed the audience.

She highlighted figures from Scottish Natural Heritage that showed the amount of land in Scotland unaffected by the visual impact of development has fallen from 41 per cent in 2002 to 28 per cent in 2009.

She said: “The dominant factor in this decline is wind developments. Scotland’s wild land is a defining part of our national identity. It shouldn’t be a taboo to question why we are being asked to sacrifice it.

“Currently, the subsidies which support the development of wind power are regressive. Money is being taken from consumers and put straight in to the pockets of wealthy landowners and multi-national power companies. This is unacceptable when a third of homes in Scotland are suffering from fuel poverty.”

In acknowledging the conference, the Scottish government said Scotland had the natural renewable resources to become “the green energy powerhouse of Europe”, using all forms of renewables such as hydro, wave, tidal and offshore wind.

A spokesman said: “That’s why we have set an ambitious – but achievable – target of the equivalent of all of Scotland’s electricity consumption from renewables, not just wind, by 2020.

“The Scottish Government will only approve the right wind farm applications in the right places – and those applications that do not meet the strict criteria are rejected.

“Wind farms can create opportunities for communities, delivering jobs and investment, and our planning guidance for local authorities makes clear that developments must be carefully sited to minimise impacts on the environment or local amenity.”

Environmental campaign group WWF Scotland said Scotland’s renewable ambitions were “perfectly achievable and realistic”.

Dan Barlow, the group’s head of policy, said: “The legacy of Struan Stevenson’s proposals would be missed climate targets, a pile of toxic nuclear waste, energy bills at the mercy of volatile global gas prices and thousands of lost green job opportunities.”