A controversial solar farm development on the highest point on Cumbrae has been given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government - despite a reporter admitting there would be a "severe" visual impact.

The government has overturned a cross-party decision by North Ayrshire councillors to reject Comsol's plans - which were widely criticised by local and national politicians and many Cumbrae residents.

Comsol announced last year that it would be lodging an appeal with the Scottish Government.

The decision, by a reporter from the Scottish Government's planning and environmental appeals division (DPEA), was announced on Friday.


Architect Dr Gregor Harvie, a spokesperson for Cumbrae Community Council said: “The proposed site, on Minnemoer at the highest point of the island, has an extremely complex topography, with steep undulating slopes, huge rocky outcrops and widespread boggy areas.

“We told the Scottish Government the scheme is unbuildable, and the reporter said he would make an in-person visit, but he rejected our offer to accompany him so we could point out the problems.

"We cannot understand how he thinks the installation of straight rows of solar panels, buildings over five metres tall and a network of roads can be constructed on this complex site that includes a 25m change in elevation, deep valleys and dense vegetation.

“We are calling on North Ayrshire Council to rigorously enforce the permission that has been granted, and to make absolutely sure Comsol stick by their promise not to change the topology of the site, because we simply do not believe them.

"And they can be assured that we will be watching every move they make. If the landscape is changed or the habitat damaged, we will not stand for it.”

In his appeal decision, DPEA reporter Stephen Hall said: "Proposals for local development are to include appropriate measures to conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity.

"Any potential adverse impacts on biodiversity are to be minimised through careful planning and design.

"I find that significant landscape and visual impacts would be limited to the immediate vicinity of the site, most notably from the minor road and core path to the east, and the Glaid Stone viewpoint.

"I consider these impacts to be quite severe, but localised and capable of some mitigation.

"The proposed development is generally acceptable for a renewable energy development.

"I agree that the site is not one that would seem to most naturally lend itself to the development of a solar farm.

"It is in an elevated hilltop location with rough undulating terrain. It therefore has a wider visual envelope, and may be more challenging to develop, than might be expected for a flatter lowland site.

"It is also located on part of a local nature conservation site.

"However, I am not tasked with carrying out a comparative exercise to identify the best site for a solar farm in this area, but to reach a conclusion on the acceptability of this particular proposal.

"Although not subject to formal environmental impact assessment, I note that the application was accompanied by extensive environmental information, which has informed my decision."