What the papers said..!

Report from the West Highland Free Press

“Plans for a single community wind turbine in Coigach have so far attracted 169 public comments, the vast majority of which are in favour of the scheme.

Coigach Wind Power submitted the planning application to Highland Council following a lengthy consultation process which included a community ballot showing 68 per cent of local residents were in favour of the scheme. If given the go-ahead, revenue from the single 900kW turbine — which would stand 77 metres from base to blade tip — will be used to secure the future of the community through schemes identified by residents as a priority. These include pier restoration, social housing and workshop provision.

The area is considered fragile, having lost major employers the Hydroponicum and Summer Isles Foods in recent years, and one of two shops in the area, Polbain Stores, recently closed. In addition, the roll at Achiltibuie Primary School has fallen to just 13, with a lack of affordable housing being blamed for forcing young people and families out of the area.”

For more follow to the links below



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Update on planning…

PlannersWe should hear whether or not our community windmill gets through planning in the next month.  You still have time to squeeze in your supportive comment by going to the Highland Council website and select Planning. Next go to the eplanning section and put Achiltibuie in the search bar, then scroll down to the turbine Application. Make  a Public Comment and write in your message of support. Have a browse of the comments.

You will notice that most of the recent comments have been made by people from afar – which they have every right to do – but many of these accuse the project of being led by uncaring ‘developers’ (no! – it’s a community-led project, all profits going for community benefit and sustainability, including the local environment) or the applicants not having looked at and assessed closely aspects of the environmental impact (there is a thorough EIA in the application documents.) One comment even says that the windmill will threaten the survival of the local Hoopoe population …


Hoopoe, a native of the subtropics and southern Europe.

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Love wind and gales?

gales photoThe wind we’ve had over this winter certainly isn’t all bad news! In fact it has been great news for wind energy generation round the country, with record breaking levels of clean electricity generated.  Our Met (meteorology) mast has been up on the site of the proposed community wind turbine for over two years now. (See our header photo at the top of the page of community volunteers under expert guidance erecting it on the site of the proposed turbine.)

Over this time it has been quietly gathering quality data on its high-tech computer logger. This information about wind speed, direction, wind ‘quality’ (to detect turbulence) etc can be fed into the progression of financial planning for the project, and provides solid, provable data for lenders and funders. Incidentally, info downloaded from the logger shows that had our single 900kW  wind turbine been up it would have generated close on £10,000 of clean electricity in the very first week! It was quite a windy one but still! By the time our 50m high met mast comes down in May we will have a great resource of data to use. Just need planning permission, now.

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Planning progress…

Whilst it’s been heartening to see the many statements of support on the Highland Council ePlanning website for the community turbine – mostly from local residents and also many of our ‘diaspora’ who were brought up here and still call it home, and many others who have long and strong associations with Coigach and are known by many here – the same cannot be said for the objectors’ comments.

As of today, 22 September, there are 51 comments objecting to our community project. Of the 51 objectors only 5 are residents of Coigach. You may wonder who these others are who feel they should try to deprive our community of a secure future. Well, so do we – at a meeting we had today attended by seven community members, only 4 of these 46 non-resident complainers had ever been heard of by anyone as having anything to do with our community – two with holiday/second homes (one of whom falsely claims to be a resident) and two tourists.

Where have these others come from? Well, it would appear from several of the comments made and other information we have received that objectors have been sought out and provided with information upon which to base their objections, including a spurious exaggerated ‘telephoto’ photomontage and other intentionally misleading information. At least 2 of the objectors (and their 2 separately objecting spouses) are known as dedicated wind-farm opponents – one even supported Donald Trump before a Holyrood committee.

We thought it might be helpful to consider some of the misleading statements made by objectors, and to put a plea out to people to restore some balance in the comments by supporting our project.

Statement The reality
“visible from virtually all of Gruinard Bay” and “conspicuous across the entire Gruinard Bay” Zone of Visible Impact (ZVI) studies show this to be wholly untrue – it is almost completely obscured…and is over 20km away
The site “is a Nature Reserve” and “forms part of the Ben More Coigach Nature Reserve” We cherish our wildlife and natural heritage as much as anyone, but the site is not a nature reserve, and there is no such thing as the Ben More Coigach Nature Reserve
“Turbines lower property prices and render homes unsellable” There is absolutely no evidence that a single turbine in the landscape will have any impact whatsoever on property prices – which are anyway beyond the reach of young families trying to get a foothold here
“It is not a small-scale development. The wind turbine is a ‘large scale, commercial’ as defined by Highland Council’s onshore wind energy guidance.” No, the guidance does in fact define it as small scale, being under 5MW and a single turbine.
“It would damage the aspects that make the area the NW Geopark, the only such park in Scotland. Designated by the UNESCO…” We are part of the North West Highlands Geopark. Geopark status is not a designation (it has no legal standing) and it is not awarded by UNESCO. There are three Geoparks in Scotland. The wind turbine would have no effect on our status as a Geopark.
“The turbine would be right in the middle of the Assynt-Coigach NSA” No, it will be on the edge of the NSA and visible from only 4% of the NSA’s total landmass. It will not be visible from any of the NSA’s iconic ‘inselberg’ mountains – Suilven, Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag, Cul Mhor or Quinag.
“would be clearly visible from An Teallach” Yes, it will be visible from the peak, but 22km away – at that distance, even if facing you it will be a 44m wide speck on a 360 degree panorama stretching over 138km.
Wind turbines don’t work Yes they do – just ask any of the many communities whose lead we are following, now reaping the benefits.
“It will destroy tourism locally” There is absolutely no evidence that a single turbine will have any impact whatsoever on tourism.
“It’s within a stone’s throw of Ben Mhor” … if you can throw a stone 5km, then yes.
“…it is hard to contemplate how it can be said that there is strong support for a wind turbine in Coigach” The community ballot conducted by Highland Council on behalf of Coigach Community Council showed 68% support for the turbine at Achavraie.
“How about the applicants try earning a living like the rest of us instead of sponging off the state?” CCDC is run by volunteer directors. Of the 7 current directors 6 run their own business and the 7th, though formally retired, still works. 4 of the directors are involved in tourism businesses.All the money from the turbine will go to the community.
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Our planning application is in!

How the turbine will look from the nearest point in Polbain

How the turbine will look from the nearest point in Polbain

The planning application for our community wind turbine was recently submitted and it has now been validated (checked for completeness and planning fee paid) – and it will be formally advertised on Friday 6th September in the Ross-shire Journal and Edinburgh Gazette. In addition the planning application got a mention in the Ullapool News last week.

The bottom line for this project is that it will generate a 20 year income-stream that will allow the community more control of its future and allow us to invest in those things that community members feel are important for keeping Coigach thriving and special.

We need to try to reverse those things we’ve all become too well aware of: the ‘closed and gone away’ signs on the Achiltibuie Hydroponicum, Summer Isles Foods and now Polbain Stores; the school roll dropping from 36 in the mid 1990s to just 13 now; young families with no affordable housing; entrepreneurial spirits stifled by a lack of business premises; piers failing fast and unfit for purpose.

Coigach Wind Power Ltd and Coigach Community Development Company is seeking your support for this planning application for a single community wind turbine in Coigach. If you back the project and the benefits we believe it will bring to our community, please express your support either online to the Highland Council Planning Department by following this linkand entering our planning reference number: 13/02582/FUL in the search facility where you can leave your comments (and see others as well as the full planning application documents). Why not do it right now!?

Alternatively you can write to Highland Council with a letter of support, addressing your letter to D Stott, ePlanning Centre, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, INVERNESS IV3 5NX and remembering to quote the planning reference number: 13/02582/FUL.

The planning application includes a 120-page Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This EIA contains reports of all the independent studies done, including consideration of what impact the turbine will have on our landscape and wildlife. You can study the EIA for yourself if you wish – there’s a copy at the Achiltibuie Post Office and it’s also available online at Highland Council Planning Department (just follow the link, above).

There are many other small Highlands and Islands communities who are benefiting from the income generated from their single turbines and using it to support the sustainability and well-being of their communities in the future and we foresee the benefits of a similar income stream for Coigach.  The ballot conducted here by Highland Council showed strong local support for progressing this project, and the best way to show that again is to register your support on the Highland Council planning website right now – here’s that link again!

The deadline for all comments, whether by post or electronically, is October 4th.

Remember this application is for a single wind turbine which, with the planned hydro scheme at Achavraie, is the limit of the local electricity grid – we couldn’t put up more turbines even if the community wanted them. Please ask or email one of the Directors to check facts if you are unsure about any aspect of the project.

Alison Sinclair: 622302 (alison@bagpipespecialists.com)

Steve Husband: 622310 (member@taghairm.freeserve.co.uk)

Ann AliBeag Macleod: 622295 (annalibeag@msn.com)

Iain Muir: 622302 (i.muir@squidink.demon.co.uk)

Kevin Peach: 622399 (kevin@ullapool-harbour.co.uk)




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How it’s looking so far…

As part of the planning process for the community wind turbine, Atmos Consulting, working on our behalf, have produced a series of photomontages showing the turbine in the landscape. These professionally produced photomontages show everything exactly to scale, and by mimicking  the focal length of the human eye they show what will actually be seen when looking at a landscape – like neither a telephoto nor a wide angle lens would.

We’re showing these because  anyone who is concerned about how the wind turbine will look will, we think, be reassured by them. Beware any amateurish attempts to mislead!

How the turbine will look from the broch, at Achlochan

How the turbine will look from Achiltibuie Primary School

How the turbine will look from the nearest point in Polbain

How the turbine will look from the nearest point in Polbain

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A bit of a blow? No, a lot of blows…

Coigach Community Development Company

At last month’s CCDC directors’ meeting Andy Oldroyd of Oldbaum Services Ltd (www.oldbaumservices.co.uk) gave a brief but very encouraging resume of his analysis of the data Oldbaum have been collecting from the met mast we erected last year (see post on this site). Indications are that there’s plenty of wind and that we can expect a high ‘capacity factor’ – in other words the turbine site promises to be a very efficient one. Great news for our plans to generate an income for community projects.

Meanwhile, Atmos Consulting Ltd have almost completed their very thorough report which examines  the environmental  issues including ornithology and we are looking forward to receiving that within the next few weeks. Another step nearer to our submission for planning permission!

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OK, everyone breath in…phew! we got through…

Well, everyone agreed it was a bit of a damp squib. The ‘dry-run’ for the wind turbine delivery made it through the winding, twisting, narrow,  single-track road to Achiltibuie without much of a hitch. Photographers hoping for dramatic shots of wheels hanging over precipitous drops had to go home disappointed. Yes, there will have to be a bit of ditch-filling and the odd rock shifted, but nothing too difficult and the delivery firm went away well satisfied with conditions.

The dry-run truck dwarfed by our landscape.

With that milestone now past, the project moves on to consider matters relating to connecting the wind turbine to the National Grid – discussions are already under-way and a number of options are being considered. There are still a few steps to be taken before a planning application can be made, at which time the community will have a chance to see and consider all the information gathered.

So far we’re on track to deliver the community benefits of a sustainable and dependable income for at least the 20 year lifetime of the project.

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The long and winding road…

Just how long and winding the single track road to Achiltibuie is will be tested on Wednesday 25th April when the specialist haulage company Mar-Train will undertake a ‘dummy run’ along the route we hope our community wind turbine will be taking. This is an important step in the project planning phase so we can specify exactly what we need when we apply for planning permission for the wind turbine. Although the route has already been examined by experts and found ‘tight but do-able’, it’s important that we make doubly sure by having a drive-through with one of the actual delivery trucks. There are three critical factors we need to look at – the tightness of the corners for the trailer carrying the blades, the width of the road to accommodate the tower and the weight limit of the bridges to support the crane needed to erect the turbine – the drive-through will check the first of these two things, and structural surveys of the bridges will be undertaken to ensure they’re up to the job.

Mar-Train delivering a section of a large wind turbine tower

The plan for the delivery proper is for the turbine to be delivered by sea to Ullapool from where it will be loaded onto the transport lorries for the trip to Achiltibuie. The dummy run will follow the exact planned route and will be a rigorous exercise undertaken by the same acknowledged experts who will hopefully be involved with the real thing when it happens. Some degree of traffic disruptions on the single track road will unfortunately be inevitable but will be kept to a minimum with regular users informed of the plan and the police on hand to manage the traffic efficiently.

Just so long as they don’t meet any tourists who don’t know how to reverse…


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Planning Open Day

The wind turbine planning open day was held yesterday (25th January) and was a great success, attracting over 90 Coigach residents and others from outwith Coigach. Tessa Quinton of Atmos Consulting together with Local Development Officers Peter and Julia along with CWP Directors took visitors through the wealth of displays and information on show,

Cllr Biz Campbell and HC Area Manager Robbie Bain discuss the project with CWP Director Steve Husband and Peter Muir

answering questions and discussing points of interest. Councillor Biz Campbell attended along with Highland Council Area Manager Robbie Bain to see at first hand how our project is progressing. Land owners of the proposed turbine site, Scottish Wildlife Trust, were represented by Mark Foxwell, Highlands and Islands Reserve Manager, keen to keep pace with our progress.

Much interest was taken in the photo-montages showing how the turbine would look, if visible at all, from various points around the community. The schoolchildren queued up excitedly to take it in turns to plot their homes on a computer map which then showed them what if anything they would see of the turbine. Another display catching the children’s imagination was of a lobster hatchery,

Schoolchildren getting down to the serious business of drawing wind turbines!

suggested as a possible community investment to support a future sustainable fishery. It wasn’t long however before the children gathered paper and pens and started drawing wind turbines with admirable concentration, skill and imagination.

A good cross-section of views were expressed at the event, with the vast majority very much in favour of the development, a feeling further reinforced when they saw the benefits other communities were now enjoying through their wind turbines allowing them a real opportunity to tackle their own socio-economic, environmental and amenity issues. We acknowledge that a small minority remain opposed to the development for a number of personal reasons, but even those few who expressed such opinions mostly went away reassured at least on some points.

A questionnaire was completed by those attending and the results of this will feed into the planning process along with other information.

All in all a very successful event for the community, with the hot haggis pies specially commissioned from Achiltibuie Gardens

Fair fa' your honest potato faces...

rounding off the day wonderfully. Thanks go to all those who came along to the event, to Peter and Julia and those who volunteered their time and effort to organise it and to Atmos Consulting for their  professional input.

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