Mar 2 2012 by Alan Woodison, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
A WINDFARM protest group is up against the clock in its bid to halt 500ft high turbines being erected on one of Robert Burns’ favourite landscapes.
The New Cumnock protesters only have a week to register their objections to the proposed Ashmark Hill windfarm before the March 8 deadline.
They say they were “caught on the hop” because the applicants, Germany-based RWE Innogy, lodged its consent form with East Ayrshire Council just four days before Christmas.
Now the Cumnock and Doon Valley Countryside Awareness Group is appealing for objectors to make their voices heard – but to do it quickly.
The proposed windfarm site lies on farmland off the road which runs alongside AftonWater on the way to Afton Reservoir and eventually Carsphairn Forest between New Cumnock and Loch Doon.
It was the river and the surrounding countryside that enchanted Burns so much that he penned the poem Sweet Afton or Afton Water in which he marvels at the beautiful scenery around New Cumnock.
Those lush hills and glens are as alluring as ever and the action group are keen to capitalise on the charms of rural Ayrshire.
Their plan is to create an outdoor pursuit centre to attract walkers, bikers and sports people who can take full advantage of the terrain and the remoteness of the location.
Campbell Gibson, a committee members of Cumnock and Doon Valley Countryside Awareness Group, said: “This would kickstart a long overdue and desperately needed regeneration programme in the area, creating huge economic benefits.”
Members of the group believe that communities like New Cumnock can prosper through attracting tourists on a large scale to see and sample the natural amenities of the area.
But they fear that man-made incursions on the landscape, like the proliferation of opencast mines as well as the growing presence of wind turbines, will remove the opportunities that tourism would bring.
Mr Gibson added: “This district has exceeded the national average of natural resource extraction using deep and surface coal mining. Our grievance now is that there are multiple energy companies lining up to decimate our countryside with windfarms stretching from New Cumnock to Dalmellington.
“This equates to hypocrisy if planning permission is granted, with high carbon emission coal extraction on one side of the B741 and inefficient windfarms on the other.”
The action group maintain that turbines only produce a third of their estimated output according to worldwide research and leave behind an enormous carbon footprint at the end of their 25-year life cycle.
“We would like to draw to people’s attention that there are already proposals for extending two opencast mines in the area, which in their own right must be subject to reaching an adverse cumulative impact,” added Campbell who runs a mountain biking club based in New Cumnock.
“Taken together with the proposed windfarms, we have now reached a situation which will need independent investigation. No further planning application should be approved until clarity on this matter is reached.”
Objectors against the seven-turbine scheme at Ashmark have until the end of next week to lodge objections with East Ayrshire Council.
A 28-day consultation period came into place on January 25, ironically Burns’ birth date.