24 November 2016
We now have more evidence of the potential for the Sneddon Law Windfarm to seriously affect our water supplies, with the recently published Sneddon Law WF Private Water Supply Risk Assessment (PWS RA): https://app.box.com/s/61683trl1bryoq9sjlyp1wvffufpk945
As you know, Sneddon Law Windfarm was originally permitted by East Ayrshire Council in 2012. It has taken Community Windpower Ltd (CWL) nearly five years to commission this PWSRA. This has only happened because EAC refused, In January 2016, to discharge the planning condition that was supposed to protect people’s water supplies.
As a result of that refusal, CWL have submitted an Appeal to the Scottish Government (DPEA) and this PWS planning condition is now due to be considered at a public Hearing, probably at the Fenwick starting on 9 January 2017. In view of the large number of PWS now deemed to be at significant risk, with their owners/consumers left completely in the dark about the risk to their homes, families and businesses until very recently, that Hearing has now been rescheduled to allow for public comment. It is my very earnest hope that you will come along and be heard.
The PWS RA report is from the developer’s own expert consultants and witnesses (Geohydrologists MacArthur Green) which (at last) lists 8 PWS as now being at major risk for loss of, or pollution to their PWS and 12 PWS as being at moderate risk. Twenty private water supplies in total are considered to be at significant risk, applying the appropriate Environmental Impact Regulations. All of these PWS now considered to be at significant risk are outside SEPA’s designated 250m ‘one size fits all’ buffer zone. This is SEPA’s rule of thumb for the minimum distance for a water source to lie from a windfarm related excavation of more than 1 metre in depth (ie borrow pits or turbine foundations.) This rule of thumb is “designed” to provide absolute protection for private water supplies. But it does not do that.
There is, however, one large water source at Sneddon Law which is supplying three stock farms and a trout fishery. This diffuse source, as yet unidentified and uncharted by CWL seems likely to be within the windfarm boundary and perhaps within 250m of high risk excavations of >1m. Its omission is inexplicable.
You will see at once that this throws some doubt on the credibility of SEPA’s Planning Guidance (known as LUPG 31) which tells windfarm developers that 250m is a safe buffer distance, so as to protect water supplies.
Despite repeated requests from the Council over the past four years to review information for Sneddon Law windfarm, SEPA have repeatedly discharged any concerns related to their interests- which includes the protection of surface and groundwater in the environment . Once again, as they did for the WL3 Extension Public Inquiry, SEPA have declined the invitation by the Reporter to attend and contribute to the PWS Hearing for Sneddon Law WF.
What then are the facts?
Sneddon Law WF is adjacent to and surrounded by Whitelee WF on three sides and it shares much of the same solid geology and surface structure as Whitelee WF.
In the decision notice for the Whitelee WF 3 Extension, issued only in October 2016, 20 months after the Inquiry, I was criticised by Scottish Power and the Reporters as being unqualified to draw my conclusions as to how so many water supplies during that windfarm construction were either lost completely (four in total) or suffered serious contamination with sediment and bacteria. The Whitelee Extension 3 Public Inquiry in June 2015 lasted almost a week and dealt largely with the alleged impact caused by constructing Whitelee WF original and its two Extensions (2006 -2013) on public and private water supplies as well as on surface and groundwater. Permission was ultimately refused for “landscape” reasons.
The difference this time is a that a proper water risk assessment, commissioned by the developer has (at the fourth attempt) used the same background geohydrological risks to draw many of the same conclusions as we were able to draw at the Whitelee 3 Inquiry. On this occasion, therefore, CWL cannot cast doubt on the evidence, the conclusions and the credibility of their own experts.
Rural dwellers rely on their private water supplies and usually have no alternative supplies. They are more vulnerable to contamination and pollution than public water supplies. I believe that it should not be the case in 21st Century Scotland that our citizens have to fight for the right to protect and maintain their water supplies in a clean and wholesome condition. Water is a basic human right and a requirement for life. There have been several successful human rights cases based on pollution of PWS in Europe , not just because of pollution by commercial developers but by also local authorities. So elsewhere, this is a live issue.
The Scottish Government always state publicly that windfarms are only consented if they’re in the right place. So I ask the question – how can constructing a windfarm which jeopardises people’s water supplies and livelihoods possibly be construed as being ‘ in the right place’?
How can a developer be allowed to submit an Environmental Statement (ES) which is so deficient that it fails to list almost all the PWS that are now deemed to be at major risk of either pollution (loss of quality) or loss of quantity, or loss altogether? It is extraordinary that the original ES from 2011 listed only six PWS as being at risk. All were then deemed to be at negligible risk apart from one, (Craigends) now owned by CWL and intended to be mothballed, with the property rendered uninhabitable. The information now available that 20 PWS were at significant risk from the development was not before the Council when it awarded consent in 2012. To their credit, EAC now recognise this. They have a policy that any planning application likely to affect water supplies would be regarded as a deemed refusal, in line with the EU’s Water Framework Directive.
Why then was this critical environmental information omitted from the Environmental Statement? Was it done on purpose? Was it done carelessly? Is the omission part of a bigger picture which we cannot see? Nobody knows, and nobody will say.
I believe that this failure to provide such important environmental information before a decision to award Planning Permission consent should be questioned? How can Permission be regarded as being competent if there is missing information which would be contrary to existing law? Because the new PWS RA, just lodged with the Reporter highlights so many PWS which will be at risk, along with the livelihoods of three farms, a trout fishery and country sports facility, the Reporter has agreed that this new information needs public notification, as is required under the Åarhus convention and under current EIA regulations.
The DPEA has now provided clarification as to where this information can be found and where public comment can be submitted. This is enclosed in the attached letter.
I know everyone is weary of objecting to windfarms that are not in their own backyard, but the implications of this Appeal are immense, not just to ensure that in future, developers submit complete and accurate Environmental Statements and Water Supply risk assessments, but also that the public are given the chance to exercise their right to comment on potentially vital environmental impacts.
These concerns are, by law, properly considered before deciding an application, while all questions are still open and at large for the decisionmaker. They should not be decided after granting permission.
I AM THEREFORE WRITING TO ASK FOR YOUR HELP. OUR COMMUNITY COUNCIL NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT ON THIS OCCASION LIKE NO OTHER.
The public have until 21st December 2016 to submit comment on this PWS RA.
Comments are to be sent to the case Officer, Colin Bell: Colin.Bell@gov.scot The full case can be viewed at www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk case No PPA-190-2058 and at
https://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=117448 When you look at this website, please be persistent. The data is quite hard to find. You will see that the DPEA have somewhat obscured the issue, by lumping the much more important Water Supply Appeal (PPA-190-2054) under another concurrent appeal for Sneddon Law windfarm relating to the issue of a Financial Bond (PPA 190-2058).
This means that anyone trying to navigate the DPEA website may find it difficult to find the information and notifications related to the PWS Hearing. To repeat, the case will be heard, probably at the Fenwick Hotel, on 9 January 2017 starting at 1000.
Your support is vital. If you can also come to the Appeal, that too would be so very helpful. Please do consider objecting and forward this to as many people as possible. Summary bullet points, which you may find helpful to include in your comments are listed at the end.
Rachel Connor ( Chair Moscow and Waterside Community Council)
1. This Windfarm should not have been awarded consent by either the Council in 2012, or DPEA in 2014, without a complete and accurate ES, which required a private water supply risk assessment.
2. Twenty homes and rural business’ water supplies are now at significant risk from this development, which were not identified before consent was awarded.
3. Should water supplies be affected, the developer’s solution is to provide bottled water for 24 hours and thereafter, either bowser or tanker water. Anyone who has a washing machine or a barn full of cattle will realise this is completely impractical and inadequate.
4. The stated major risks of affecting water quality not only risks public health by virtue of contaminating water, but it risks the welfare and business of farm animals and a trout fishery, which is dependent on clean, unchlorinated water.
5. If Water supplies are affected, it will be because groundwater is either contaminated or groundwater flows have been altered by quarrying or construction. These effects are likely to last months and may be permanent. Such changes are contrary to the Water Framework Directive and transposed Scots Law.
6. None of the PWS which may be affected, have any financial guarantee embedded in the consent documents that require the developer to reinstate PWS quantity or quality and local residents have been excluded from ensuring that this occurs.
7. Under the Aarhus convention and EU Law, this new environmental information must be publicised and the public have a right to comment on this and for their comments to be heard, considered and recorded in the decision making process.