Save Straiton For Scotland: Chairman’s report #1, 10th March 2013
It is only five weeks since the village of Straiton, at a packed meeting in the village hall, voted unanimously to oppose five wind farm development proposals around the village and a small management committee was set up to take on the day-to-day business of mobilising that opposition. It is worth remembering what we are up against: up to 130 turbines, from 110 to over 146m in height, all of them within a few miles of the village, and the nearest just a few hundreds of yards away.
This report, the first of a series, is to tell you about our progress to date.
First, with the help of the community council, we have engaged with Kirkmichael and Crosshill, leafleted, held meetings, and raised awareness that this campaign, although it wants to “save Straiton”, also very much wants to join forces with the other villages around and about the Girvan valley which are also at risk from the biggest destructive change that has ever occurred to their landscape in their centuries-old history.
The campaign group was set up to develop long-term strategies and day-to-day responses to best oppose the wind farm plans. These we have begun to implement. Save Straiton For Scotland has been set up as a limited company, which both protects the individual members of the campaign group and allows for the proper auditing of company bank accounts. Thanks to our treasurer, Andy Sinclair, for this. Fundraising remains a priority. The committee meets weekly: our agenda, minutes and correspondence are managed by Eoghan Baird, our committee secretary and I thank Eoghan for his crucial role in ensuring our actions are transparent and that we remain accountable.
Communication is also at the heart of our approach: we have set up a website, facebook and twitter pages, published the first of a series of newsletters, and put up a noticeboard in the village. The website and facebook pages have already attracted many views, hits and likes! – and they will continue to evolve and put up news and views in response to developments. Many thanks to Gareth Bailey, Lala Burchall-Nolan, Peter Hadden, Bea Holden, and Jonathan Meuli for their help with these various and vital high-tec and low-tec media outlets.
We have also felt that is vital to engage with and lobby all levels of both Scottish and UK governments from the national to the local, and we have arranged for politicians and representatives to visit the village so that they can see the situation at first hand. Visits so far include Adam Ingram MSP, Struan Stevenson MEP, councillors Brian Connolly and William Grant. Of course, some of these politicians support wind-farm development in principal, but all have so far agreed that the proposed over-development around Straiton would be completely inappropriate. Visits planned in the near future include Sandra Osborne MP, Graeme Pearson MSP with Development Officer John McKenzie, councillor Bill Grant and Chic Brodie MSP.
We will also add to the list in future months. I have engaged with the First Minister directly on specific concerns and have been advised he will reply.
We have also succeeded in gaining useful press coverage of our campaign. There have been articles – including full-page colour spreads – in the Herald, the Carrick Gazette, the Ayrshire Post, the Scottish Daily Mail, and we are expecting another shortly in the Daily Telegraph. Also helping to raise awareness – an interview on Wind-wise radio, and a petition – online and paper versions available – don’t forget to sign!
It is also important to keep our lines of communication open with the developers and so I have contacted all five companies involved to explain who we are, what we are about, and why we are opposing the proposed turbines. I have so far met with WilloWind, PNE Energy, and nPower, and meetings with the others will follow.
It is also vital that we make connections between our campaign and others which are ongoing, especially those near us in South and East Ayrshire. For example, we are co-ordinating with Mark Gibson at Craigengillan, near Dalmellington, to share ideas and talk through a joint approach where and when appropriate.
Whirly Marshall our Planning Lead, has processed pages and pages of the detailed information which we need to articulate our opposition, and I would like to thank her for her detailed and time-consuming work which will be vital to our success. She and I will be meeting in the next few days with South Ayrshire Planning, in order to discuss the planning process at local level. Also this week we will meeting with and engaging three professional consultants who have successfully helped other Scottish campaigns. The assistance of professionals (experts in planning, landscape and noise issues) is an essential part of our long-term strategy, and the principal reason for our fund-raising.
The first of the proposed windfarms to come before South Ayrshire Planning, we believe, will be WilloWind’s Linfairn proposal. We won’t know the date in advance, but we do know that it will be soon. When this arrives, we have a short window of only 28 days to make our objections. For this reason we are going to focus totally on the Linfairn proposal over the next few weeks. When the other wind farms come before the planning authorities, we will concentrate on them in their turn.
We also have to remember that all of the five proposed wind farms are large – all over 50Mw, and so the developers have the right to appeal directly to the Scottish Government, even if the proposal is rejected by South Ayrshire. So if South Ayrshire reject the WilloWind / Linfairn proposal, as we hope they will, we may still have to continue out opposition all the way to the Scottish Government.
We completely reject the plans for the Linfairn wind farm. We believe it is totally inappropriate for its Intimate River Valley setting, too close to housing, too damaging to wildlife and forestry, too close to established core paths and tourist businesses, too close to the Dark Sky Park. These and other reasons will be listed online and we would encourage all our supporters to get ready for our fast-approaching 28 day objections-window. We will tell you when the 28-day countdown begins, what this means and what we have to do make our objections.
For those without computers, letter-writing workshops are being held. The first is at The Buck on Friday 15th March between 3pm and 5pm. Addresses and email addresses of MPs, Councillors, MSPs etc will be provided along with a printer if you have a laptop, paper and pens if not. If you want help with your letter it will be provided. Sandra Osborne, MP will be visiting so if you are intending to write to her you can save a stamp! If the McCandlish Hall is free we’ll hold another session on Saturday 16th in the morning between 10am – 12noon.
Fund raising events will follow soon as well. Which brings me on to perhaps the most important thank you of them all: to all of you, our supporters, for your mandate, support, practical help, advice, information, encouragement, and yes – of course – money. We have raised over £9000 in only five weeks – an incredible achievement from a small community and its supporters. We will spend every penny very carefully for maximum impact and result . But we will need more to continue our work and will continue to raise funds actively.
We would very much like to have representation on the committee from both Crosshill and Kirkmichael. If you feel able to give or your time and energy in this worthy cause, please contact me direct for details!
I intend to write further reports to keep you up to date with what we have achieved and what is coming up. However, please do continue to use http://savestraitonforscotland.com as your source of news, and if you have not already done so, please consider signing up to “follow” the blog via email. You’ll find the “follow” button near the top right of the Home Page of the website, just below the “monumometer”!
Thanks again for your continued support
Tel. 01655 770637