Wind farm refusal set to cost Tory landowner £8m

A WIND farm that could earn the Scottish Conservative environment spokesman more than £8 million is being recommended for refusal.
It is claimed Sir Jamie McGrigor previously rejected wind farms. Picture: Craig StephenIt is claimed Sir Jamie McGrigor previously rejected wind farms. Picture: Craig Stephen
It is claimed Sir Jamie McGrigor previously rejected wind farms. Picture: Craig Stephen

Ardchonnel wind farm, which is being planned on a 3,500-acre estate in Argyll owned by Tory MSP Sir Jamie McGrigor, is to be considered by Argyll and Bute Council on Wednesday.

The scheme has attracted 92 objections and 52 expressions of support. Planners are recommending refusal as a result of the level of comment the scheme has attracted. They are also recommending a public hearing before any decision is taken by councillors.

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The proposed development would see 15 turbines erected on a hillside above Loch Awe, each 364ft (111m) in height, the equivalent of seven double-decker buses.

Since the German energy giant RWE Innogy lodged a formal planning application in December, Argyll and Bute Council has received scores of objections from Sir Jamie’s constituents.

At up to 45 megawatts, Ardchonnel would produce enough energy to supply 40 per cent of the households in Argyll and Bute.

Sir Jamie, 64, an Eton-educated baronet who has been a Highland and Islands list MSP since 1999, struck a deal with RWE in 2011. The land is currently used for sheep grazing.

If the project goes ahead, Sir Jamie should receive £7,000 a year “base rent” for each megawatt of installed capacity, or up to £315,000, plus extra if the wind farm performs very well, according to the agreement. Index-linked over the 25-year lifetime of the turbines, income from the site would top £8m.

In 2008, Sir Jamie signed a parliamentary motion demanding rules on wind farms to end “speculative applications… threatening scenic areas”.

The council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee is due to discuss the application on Wednesday.

Objectors claim Ardchonnel will ruin the skyline above Loch Awe and wreck the tourist trade, especially in Dalavich; create “intolerable” noise and threaten rare bird life including sea eagles, golden eagles and ospreys.

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In one objection, Irene McClounnan, secretary of Dalavich Social Club, said Ardchonnel would “rip the heart out of this community potentially creating a ghost village”.

She said local people were not against turbines in principle – indeed, her club had benefited from community funds from the nearby An Suidhe wind farm – but the Ardchonnel proposal was too big and prominent.

She said villagers remembered Sir Jamie telling them around six years ago that he would never have wind farms on his land.

In a statement last month, Sir Jamie said: “This development has the potential to be of substantial financial benefit to local communities. It stands to provide an annual income that will make the local economies more sustainable, while providing valuable jobs.”