20th May 2014 will go down as the day that Met Masts met their match. The perceived wisdom is that there is no point in objecting to wind masts as if wind speeds are insufficient the development won’t go ahead. And anyway the Scottish Ministers will approve it on appeal anyway. Practise tells us that if a mast arrives, a wind farm is sure to follow. The false premise followed for so long by planning committees has been well and truly laid to rest today. The ABO application in preparation for their proposed wind farm at Kilmorack/Aigas/Strathglass (Allt Carach – the deceitful stream) was resoundingly refused with a count of 10 against and only 3 for. One local Lib-Dem councillor had to remove himself after admitting being entertained to a meal by the developer. Oops!
There have been other refusals in the past but nothing quite so forthright. In September 2013 Newmiln, one for Dale Vince’s Ecotricity, in Perth and Kinross was refused due to aviation conflicts with the new grass airstrip at Bachilton. Interesting that it was microlights that sunk that mast, not fast jets, helicopters or transport aircraft which are normally involved until so called safeguarding units accept mitigation. You do sometimes wonder what ‘safeguarding’ are protecting. Pilots and passengers or developers profits? Again the spirited and robust opposition from G.A.S.P.S may well have contributed! And at Lochaber in 2004 four out of five met masts were refused due to concern that they were a precursor to a wind farm. However most Councillors have followed the belief that it is pointless not to approve as they get passed on appeal. In this latest refusal, that premise was cast aside by the majority of the Councillors in what may well prove a groundbreaking moment.
The other mast of the day is the one that literally bit the dust. Vandalism has been blamed for the felling of a Met Mast at Auchenra Hill near Guillyburn in Kirkmahoe in Dumfries and Galloway. Looking back in history this is not the first occasion that met masts have been vandalised but it possibly reflects a growing frustration with the legal process and it’s failure to protect locals. Now I must add the normal ‘elf and safety message that apart from being very illegal, damaging met masts can be very dangerous. £15,000 worth of steel and wire collapsing onto you could really spoil your day. So the moral is don’t vandalise met masts but do organise and object to them as strongly as possible because they are stoppable. Fight them as hard as you would a full wind farm because as sure as night follows day, a wind farm application will follow a met mast. The experience you gain will be advantageous if the wind weasels don’t get the message and pack their bags! Seek professional planning help because there may well be many errors in the application and the first step to stopping them is to find errors in presentation. Local plans are written in a planning language few of us mere mortals can truly understand and you often find conflicting conditions apply. Only a planning expert can cut through this and identify those that take precedent and may well have to argue the case. Lobby councillors and the planning officer unrelenting. They probably don’t live near so explain how it is. Don’t communicate with developers because the next thing you will read from the applicant is that you all think they are great and welcome them. They don’t so much lie as embellish the truth! Common courtesy is spun as wholesome support.
One of the strong suits of wind opposition is the legal and democratic way it is done. Unlike Fracking, no one has ever been arrested in the UK opposing wind. We respect the Law and we respect the Police. We have seen instances where developers have made allegations against opposition groups but they have been smoke and mirrors. On the other hand developers and landowners have not always been so scrupulous in keeping within the law. Can I remind people that we have the high ground in the debate. Let’s keep it that way and however much you might like to see masts laying on the floor, leave it to the dismantling crews.