The impact of the Hadyard Hill windfarm on nearby residents may have been underestimated according to a new report commissioned by the Scottish Government.
Climate change body ClimateXChange looked at ten windfarms across Scotland, including Hadyard Hill and Dalswinton in Dumfries and Galloway.
Among many conclusions, the report found that in some cases guidelines on windfarms were not consistently followed and the impacts predicted by developers when submitting planning applications were not consistent with the actual impact assessed at sites like Hadyard Hill and by the reports from locals living there.
However, the report did also note that improvements in planning guidance and best practice have been implemented since the projects began saying: “This is an encouraging sign that the planning process is getting better at predicting and presenting the impact from major developments like wind farms.”
The 52-turbine Hadyard Hill farm has been operated at a site near Dailly since 2006 by Southern and Scottish Energy and the company have recently applied to the Scottish Government for a 31 turbine extension to the site.
The Gazette also revealed earlier this year that SSE has received over £7m in constraint payments since April 2011 as a result of the national grid being unable to cope with the energy being produced at the site.
This study focused on the visual, shadow flicker and noise impact levels predicted by developers compared to what happened in reality, after gathering information through resident surveys and professional consultant assessments.
Anti wind-farm campaigner Susan Crosthwaite, who owns Cosses country house near Ballantrae said: “At long last there is some official recognition about the real impact of these turbines.
“However, this study has told us a lot of what we already know and I find it hard to believe it has taken two years to complete this.
“It has come at a very good time though, with the recent changes to subsidy payments.”
Susan has attended many South Ayrshire Council meetings to object to turbine proposals and believe developers haven’t given a true picture.
“It is absolutely the case. Objectors and individuals have often had to come with their own images which show the true picture.
“Just recently a windfarm planned for Straid was thrown out because objectors had commissioned their own images.”
The 15 turbine Dalswinton windfarm in Dumfries and Galloway was also involved in the study and campaign group Turbine Watch 312 say the report highlights what campaigners have said for years.
A spokesperson for the group said: “One key flaw exposed in the report is the poor understanding of the consequences of post-consent micrositing as it affects residents. These problems have been articulated by campaigners for some time but have been down played at all levels in the planning process.
“Sadly, the Scottish Government retreats to its usual denial mode about the impacts of wind farm schemes and trots out the usual off-the-shelf propaganda about ‘appropriate siting’. Thus, a huge opportunity to reconsider and improve the planning process on the back of an important report will be wasted.”
ClimateXChange’s project manager Ragne Low said: “As the study has focused on issues relating to the planning process, we are confident that the findings will feed into improved practice in measuring the predicted impacts of proposed wind farms and in communicating this to decision-makers and those likely to be affected.”
A spokesperson for Scottish and Southern Energy said: “As Scotland’s largest generator of energy from renewables, SSE is proud to be a responsible operator with an onshore wind portfolio that complies fully with planning requirements as laid down by local authorities and the Scottish Government .
“We aim to uphold best practice standards at all stages in a project’s lifetime and engage closely with local communities. On the rare occasions where concerns are raised regarding our operational sites we investigate any issues thoroughly”.