COMMUNITY councillors have joined forces to call for a vital study into the impact of a proposed large-scale solar farm on Cumbrae.

The News can reveal that Comsol Energy Ltd is set to submit another planning application to turn a chunk of the island into a 'green power plant' after its previous bid sparked a public backlash.

The applicants planning consultants have indicated that the revised proposals will allow for 7MW of solar generation – 40 per cent more than before – from a sprawling site that will cover over 15 hectares.

Community council chair Alex Harvie has written to local authority planning chief Iain Davies, urging him to make sure an environment impact assessment (EIA) is carried out by the developer, before the project is progressed.

She said: “This would allow a proper assessment of whether there are alternative sites for this particular proposal that might have a lesser impact on the environment.

“It would also look at how power generated would be connected to the national grid, which has not been explained in any of the previous applications.

“Our understanding is that proposals of this nature should be required to carry out an EIA if they are likely to have significant effects on the environment.

“Schedule two, which this falls into, sets a size threshold of 0.5 hectares for installations for the production of electricity - and the proposed development is for 15.3 hectares.

“This is 30 times larger than the minimum threshold and 1.3 per cent of the island’s land area so it will clearly have a significant effect."

The application is for a site to the north east of Wee Minnemoer, near the highest point on the island, and would take over more than per cent of Cumbrae’s land mass.

Hundreds of objections to the plans were previously sent in to North Ayrshire Council, with only a small minority of islanders saying they were in favour.

Community councillors believe the site is the wrong position for the farm, and say it goes directly against discussions around Cumbrae becoming a carbon-neutral island.

Alex explained: “One of the main concerns of the local community is the sensitive location at the island's highest point, adjacent to the Glaid Stone, and the island’s viewing point.

“The site is also within the Barbay Local Nature Conservation Site.

“The selection of this important landscape by the applicant is based purely on commercial considerations and we do not believe any alternative sites have been looked at.

“It also pre-empts the work that will be undertaken as part of the Carbon Neutral Islands project, which will carefully consider whether renewable generation is appropriate for the island.

“If so, it will look at what form it might take, where it might best be located, and how it might benefit the community.”

Alex believes an EIA is a must to avoid setting a precedent for similar developments elsewhere.

She added: “If no assessment is required by North Ayrshire Council, this will send an unfortunate message to other communities which are part of the Carbon Neutral Islands project.

“It will signal that proposals will not be properly considered and that inappropriate developments will be thrust upon them without a proper probe."