Fears over solar farm effect on wildlife sanctuary

solar farm
solar farm

A community council fears a solar farm on the Isle of Cumbrae will devastate a local wildlife sanctuary.

The decision to build the farm on the proposed site, Wee Minnemoer, has been opposed by Cumbrae Community Council for the past seven years.

The scheme will now go ahead after the Scottish government overruled a unanimous cross-party decision by North Ayrshire Council to reject the plan.

The site is a designated a Special Landscape Area (SLA) and Local Nature Conservation Site (LNCS). It is home to 20 endangered species of bird and seven priority habitats.

Architect Dr Gregor Harvie, spokesperson for the community council, said the proposed site - next to the highest point of the island - has an extremely complex topography, with steep undulating slopes, huge rocky outcrops and widespread boggy areas.

"It will not be possible to build the solar farm without completely devastating this important wildlife sanctuary," he said, adding that the developers would have to level the site.

The area is a viewing and picnic area and on one of the main walks on the island.

It covers approximately 15 hectares (equivalent to 22 football pitches) and 1.3% of the total area of the island.

Viewing and picnic area

The Isle of Cumbrae has responded to four applications relating to the proposed solar farm, the most recent of which was rejected by North Ayrshire Council in May 2023.

There have been 696 comments submitted to North Ayrshire Council since the first application in 2016 by Comsol Energy Limited. Only 17 of those were for the project and four neutral.

The community council said Comsol representatives claimed in 2016 that the site was selected following survey work.

But, despite several requests for this information, the community council said this had never been provided.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “The independent reporter who decided this appeal was required to make their decision on the planning merits of the case and in accordance with the development plan.

“The reporter took full account of the submissions made by all parties, including representations from members of the local community.”

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