Energy Bill

Written evidence submitted by The Royal Burgh of Sanquhar and District Community Council (EB 26)

I write to offer our very strongest support for the proposed Windfarm at Twenty Shilling Hill, near Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, when the amendments to the Energy Bill are considered. I also write with the full approval of Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Community Council who are our near neighbours in this area. It is a matter of great concern to the populations of Mid and Upper Nithsdale that this proposed development might not proceed to completion. For the past four years, we, representing the Community, have engaged with the developers, (Element Power) and these regular consultations have meant that Twenty Shilling Windfarm is a green energy scheme which not only meets the approval of all nine areas covered, but also meets the needs and aspirations of the local populations as we seek to take this deprived area forward in this competitive world. Twenty Shilling Windfarm is vitally important to Upper Nithsdale. It is the first sizeable windfarm to have planning permission in this area, and has the full support of the population. Over the past four years, plans have been put in place to develop the local economy utilising funds from the windfarm. Transport, tourism, improvements in infrastructure, and training of apprentices are all included in future plans for the area. Twenty Shilling also represents the first major windfarm investment in our area, and as such, it is important that the plans made for any Community Benefit are tested and proven so that they can be further utilised in subsequent windfarm developments. Twenty Shilling Windfarm is not just any windfarm-it is a planned windfarm that has been shaped not only by the windfarm companies, but also by the communities who will live-and hopefully work-around it. Of particular interest is the fact that over forty local firms, from haulage contractors, builders, fencers, etc. have expressed their intentions to bid for contracts during construction and maintenance of the windfarm. It is also important to note that the amount of Community Benefit payable by these windfarm companies, far exceeds any amount available from either National or Local Government, and the loss of such investment in the area will lead to further deprivation and decay. There is no doubt that Twenty Shilling Windfarm will bring huge benefits to the people of Mid and Upper Nithsdale, and it would be a tragedy if such a scheme were to be lost simply because of a technicality in interpreting the cut- off date.

Upper Nithsdale has suffered great deprivation over the years, due to the loss of coal mines and the many industries that existed on the income from the mines. We are therefore, no stranger to deprivation and the use of land by absent landlords. Our two Communities number nearly 5000 inhabitants, and, since the closure of the coal mines nearly 50 years ago, have stumbled from crisis to crisis. Despite the problems affecting our area, we are not dependent communities, and both Kirkconnel and Sanquhar can boast good public initiatives and an earnest desire to improve our lot through self-help. Windfarm monies will, at least allow local people the ability to take decisions which will improve the area in which we live. These points were made very strongly at a planning meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council, when Community Councillors from Upper Nithsdale attended the meeting and convinced the Planning Committee to reverse its original recommendation and grant Planning Permission for construction.

As Community Councils, we try to take a pro-active role in matters which will have an effect on the lives of local people. Twenty Shilling Windfarm has the potential to offer a life changing improvement to the lives and living conditions of the population of Upper Nithsdale.

This opportunity for improvement and sustainability must not be lost.

February 2016

 

Prepared 2nd February 2016