Dumfries and Galloway Council has approved plans for the proposed Sandy Knowe Wind Farm on land south-west of Kirkconnel and Kelloholm in Upper Nithsdale with a 11-6 decision in favour of the development at the Planning Applications Committee on Tuesday 22nd March.
Burcote submitted an application to the Council in July last year for a reduced 24 turbine Sandy Knowe scheme. This followed the refusal of an original 30 turbine, Section 36 application by the Scottish Government in February 2015, which prompted a petition with over 1,000 signatures from the local communities to overturn the decision. The new application would see 24 turbines, each with a tip height up to 125m, with the project having a total installed capacity of up to 48MW.
The Sandy Knowe application received no objections from statutory consultees such as SNH, SEPA and Historic Scotland, with only a partial consultee objection from the Council’s Landscape Architect, but was recommended for refusal by Council Planners on the grounds of adverse landscape and visual impacts. Despite the recommendation, Councillor Archie Dryburgh moved a successful motion to consent the scheme, which was seconded by Councillor Ian Carruthers.
Burcote announced last year that they will be working in partnership with ERG, a major Italian renewable investor on Sandy Knowe Wind Farm, meaning that despite recent changes in domestic market conditions, the project will now be built out. The partnership also means that the project can offer an innovative community shared ownership model, with the local Community Councils of Kirkconnel and Kelloholm and the Royal Burgh of Sanquhar owning up to the equivalent of one turbine.
Sandy Knowe Wind Farm has received significant support from the local communities, with 118 letters of support and only one objection. Both the Kirkconnel and Kelloholm and The Royal Burgh of Sanquhar Community Councils, and local member Cllr John Syme, spoke in support of the application at Committee.
Fraser Campbell, Operations Director at Burcote Wind welcomed the decision:
“We are delighted that the Council has again shown their support for the Sandy Knowe development and consented our application today (Tuesday). We have worked closely with the Council and the local communities for the last four years to ensure that we brought forward an application that was both sensitively designed and located, but also one which would provide genuine benefit for the local communities.”
‘We are now looking forward to working with the communities to realise the potential that Sandy Knowe has. Kirkconnel, Kelloholm and Sanquhar will now, after years of waiting, be able to affect real, positive change in their respective communities, as a result of this decision.”
A joint comment from Royal Burgh of Sanquhar Community Council and Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Community Council stated:
“The Communities of Sanquhar, Kirkconnel and Kelloholm welcome the Planning Applications Committee’s decision today. We fully support Sandy Knowe Wind Farm and have done so throughout. This development will provide us with a great opportunity to significantly improve local services, provide work related training and will help breathe new life into our communities. We do not want to rely on the Council to fund these programmes. We want to take responsibility for ourselves, and today’s decision allows us to achieve that.”
Local communities have entered into an Agreement of Intent to participate in shared ownership of the scheme, which will now see 4.17% of net profits shared with the communities annually. In addition, and in line with Scottish Government guidelines, Burcote has also set up the Sandy Knowe Community Benefit Fund that will make a contribution to the surrounding communities of up to £240,000 per year, or up to approximately £6 million over the 25 year lifespan of the wind farm.
Alongside their offer of community ownership and community benefit contributions, Burcote has also proposed a preferential procurement policy for local contractors, providing a 5% price advantage for local firms on contracts relating to the development. This would apply to businesses based in Dumfries and Galloway.
Burcote Wind is a Scottish renewables company who are based in Dunfermline, and have been operating since 2009 in Scotland and throughout the UK. The company has six projects active throughout the UK, with their current focus for investment being on Dumfries and Galloway. Burcote announced last year that they will be working in partnership with ERG, a major Italian renewable investor, on projects in Dumfries and Galloway – Sandy Knowe and Longburn Wind Farm. ERG has been operating successfully in the energy sector for almost 80 years and is the leading wind energy operator in Italy and one of the primary operators in Europe (1,446 MW installed).