Plans for 38-acre solar farm branded 'a travesty' for island community

Locals warned the solar farm will come at a cost to local wildlife and the environment.

Residents on the island of Cumbrae say plans for a solar farm the size of 22 football pitches will be disastrous to the local economy and wildlife.

If approved, around 12,000 solar panels, CCTV towers and fences will cover a site at the top of the island.

Energy company Comsol say they’ve consulted with the community and the site won’t impact the beauty of the island.

The island is home to just over 1,000 people and offers panoramic views that attract tourists and nature lovers alike.  

Plans for a 38-acre solar farm have raised concerns about how the local infrastructure would cope with such a development. 

Jackie Wilson said Cumbrae is 'the jewel in the crown of the Clyde' and fears for the local environment if plans go ahead.

Local resident Jackie Wilson told STV News: “This is a local beauty spot. Cumbrae is the jewel in crown of the Clyde.

“We love our island and we love when the tourists come but we want to protect what is ours. I’m worried about the traffic.

“The ferries are already under stress with all work already going on in island for the flood defences and it’s getting more difficult for actual local people.

“I don’t know how many lorries it’ll take to construct this solar farm and the road up to top of the island is about one car wide. The thing about this project is the local community is not going to benefit in any way.”

Cumbrae is one of six islands that are part of Scottish Government plans to become carbon neutral by 2040. 

While it’s thought the proposed solar farm will reduce the island’s carbon footprint by 40%, there are concerns here that that will come at a disastrous cost to the local environment as the proposed site is home to a number of endangered and rare birds.

Keith Hammond said the solar farm could have a

Cumbrae Community Council secretary Keith Hammond said: “Islanders have a duty not to let the island be spoiled but we also have a duty to wildlife, birdlife and fauna.

“If the project had been under control of the community, we’d have insisted it was positioned more sensitively, that it didn’t have a detrimental impact on island or island wildlife.

“We can’t avoid change and we’re part of energy crisis like everyone else but there’s been no concession on Comsol Energy’s part to help the island out.”

Residents like Linda think the solar farm will detract from the local views and landscape.

She said: “It’s going to detract from the view and impact tourists coming over with lorries set to come over. It’s massive from pictures I’ve seen”.

Scott Ferris said he’s worried the solar farm will harm tourism on the island.

He told STV News: “It will put people off the top of the island. The last thing people want to be staring down on is something the size of this proposed solar farm. They want to see nice views, not a construction site.”

Tim Ferris said: “The size of the proposed site is out of all proportion to the size of the island.

“We’re not against solar farms at all, we’re pro solar farm but on this small jewel of an island, to have it on that site would be a travesty.”  

Comsol Energy maintain the proposed site is hidden and doesn’t impact on the beauty of the island.

In a statement they said: “The application for the solar farm remains within the identified red zone boundary which was previously granted planning permission. 

“The site, which is poor grazing ground used by cattle, is hidden and does not form part of the beauty spot often misreferred to in media reports. 

“The plans to carry the energy off the island have followed a legally binding and strict process which is independently assessed by engineers and has been meticulously thought through following the Gride Code and SSE’s compliance requirements.”

North Ayrshire Council said they’re expecting a decision on the future of the site next month.

They said: “A planning application (ref: 23/00114/PP) has been received in respect of the ‘Installation of a photovoltaic solar farm, with associated battery energy storage systems and associated infrastructure,’ at a site to the north east of Wee Minnemoer, Isle of Cumbrae.

“The public had the opportunity to comment on the current application until March 22 2023. All comments received will be taken into consideration when determining the application.

“The application will be determined against the Council’s Local Development Plan policies and all other material considerations, including the Carbon Neutral Islands project.

“The proposal has been screened in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017. No EIA was found to be required. The proposal was also screened prior to the previous planning application. No EIA was found to be required previously.”

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