Plea to save valley from turbines

An MP has made a face-to-face appeal to the head of an energy firm not to ‘destroy’ a Machars valley with wind turbines.

Russell Brown told the Chief Executive of EDF that the peaceful and unique Airriequhillart valley should be left as it is.

Mr Brown was speaking during a Question Time-style debate at the Annual General Meeting of the Whithorn Business Association. Speakers from the Conservatives, the SNP and Visit Scotland also took part.

EDF, which is planning to build 18 450-foot turbines across the historic Airriequhillart valley, had sent a three-strong team to Whithorn with hopes of persuading the business community to back wind energy. Besides their chief executive, Christian Egal, two more senior executives and a press officer turned up for the session.

Mr Egal had been in direct contact with the Airriequhillart Protest Group over several weeks and had been coming under increasing pressure to make a personal visit to the proposed site. As none of the protest group were members, the Business Association decided to allow two of them to attend as guests.

Questions included why companies plan to place turbines close to people’s homes, and why no compensation was built into the process for those whose properties were blighted by turbines.

There were gasps of disbelief in the crowded room when both EDF and the SNP representative, Aileen Mcleod, argued that the imposition of a turbine site did not affect the value of adjoining properties.

Mr Egal argued that there was no evidence that turbine sites affected property prices, despite the fact that compensation schemes are in force in other countries.

The Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson blamed a lack of order or specific guidelines from central government. He gave an example of a house which was proving unsaleable because of turbines.

Mr Fergusson openly detailed his own interest in, and income from, seven turbines on land he owns dating back some time, but both he and Russell Brown agreed turbines had now become an unfair burden on Dumfries and Galloway.

Mr Brown reminded the meeting that tourism was about all the area had to offer. But Aileen Mcleod argued that “windfarms had no effect on tourism”.

The panel was asked if the development of Britain’s huge reserves of shale gas would make turbines redundant and if there should be a moratorium on further wind projects.

However, most of the panel saw shale as only part of the energy mix and thought it did not warrant a moratorium.

Dr Angela Armstrong raised the question of health issues, such as Wind Turbine Syndrome.

She detailed research by doctors in several countries on the effects of noise and vibration on humans – especially that caused by low frequency sound waves.

But the EDF team argued that there was no such evidence and one compared the vibrations from their huge turbines to “those of a washing machine”.

However, Tony Scorer, the EDF executive in charge of development, and project manager, Dennis Garry, who were both present, have agreed to travel back to meet members of the Airriequhillart Protest Group and visit homes near the project in February.