ANGER at plans to build a solar farm on Cumbrae reached new heights at the weekend as campaigners staged a protest at the highest point on the island.

Appplicants Comsol Energy have lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government after their bid to build on a site at Wee Minnemoer was turned down by North Ayrshire Council earlier this year.

The company’s decision, announced last month, to appeal against NAC’s refusal in May sparked a call from Cumbrae Community Council for island residents to “rally for democracy” by gathering at the Glaid Stone – the highest point on the island – in the latest stage of their seven-year battle against the solar farm plans.

The rally on Saturday celebrated the dunlin, one of the endangered endangered birds recorded on the site. People carried their own paper dunlins and made their way to in a large-scale landscape artwork assembled at the top of the island next to the site of the proposed solar farm.

Keith Hammond, secretary of Cumbrae Community Council said: "The solar farm site would be 22 football pitches in size, 1.3 per cent of the small island’s total area.

“The site is important to wildlife because of its range of habitats, and is recognised by North Ayrshire Council as important for biodiversity with registered sightings of 56 bird species, 20 of which are endangered, as well as a number of rare plants and protected habitats.

“Its spectacular views are a key attraction for tourists who support the island’s fragile economy.

"The majority of people who are against this proposal are actually for renewable energy. This proposal by an outside developer would have no benefit to the community, would create no jobs and would not provide energy to the island.

“It cuts across the community-led Carbon Neutral Islands initiative, which is based on grassroots, community-led energy located on sites where it would benefit rather than damage the island.

“This site is sensitive, because of its location which brings tourists and walkers to the island, and is a place where so many people come to remember family members. Many choose to have their ashes scattered at the Glaid Stone. It is a spot which is dear in the hearts of many many people.”

Dr Gregor Harvie, adviser to Cumbrae Community Council said: “The developer is appealing against a decision made unanimously by North Ayrshire Council’s planning committee and supported by a cross-party group of local councillors.

"While it is true that planning policy supports renewables, it does not do so at any cost. The crisis of biodiversity and habitat loss is a core part of the climate emergency and policy protects sensitive sites like this, even from renewables.

"This part of the island is a local nature conservation site and a special landscape area, and is an important part of the Clyde’s natural capital. North Ayrshire has 12 per cent of all vacant and derelict land in Scotland, one of the highest proportions of any Scottish local authority – so surely there must be places where we can build solar farms without destroying important habitats.”

Four applications for a solar farm close to Cumbrae’s highest point have been lodged in the last seven years, with, according to CCC, 696 public comments submitted in response – 675 of them against the various proposals.

CCC says that the only change made by Comsol in its most recent application is to increase the generating capacity of its proposed facility from 5MW to 19MW.

The deadline for representations from interested parties to Comsol’s appeal is this Tuesday, September 19.

Comsol have been invited to comment.