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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 19:17 GMT
Residents air views on wind farms
Wind farm sunset
The study looked at wind farm sites in Scotland and Ireland
Large numbers of people have expressed support for wind farms in their areas, according to a study.

However, the research by St Andrews University found that the picture was more complex when considering responses to proposed and actual sites.

Dr Charles Warren studied the perceptions and experiences of those with a wind farm in their 'backyard'.

Several hundred people were interviewed at wind farm sites in the Scottish Borders and south west Ireland.

The team, from the University's School of Geography and Geosciences, studied attitudes to the Borders' Dun Law wind farm and proposed wind farm on the Black Hill site.

Respondents found no noise issues and to their surprise, they regarded the wind farms as attractive additions to the landscape
Dr Charles Warren
St Andrews University

The survey revealed that people living near proposed wind farm sites were less supportive of the technology than those in close proximity to established wind farms.

It found that 91% of people living closest to the Dun Law site supported their local wind farm and opposition was greatest among people living 10-20 km from the site.

At the proposed Black Hill site, where planning approval has been granted for a wind farm, the technology yielded lower support among those living closest, at 58%.

The study also found that 24% of people living near the Dun Law site had changed their opinion about wind farms since its construction and had overwhelmingly became more positive.

Dr Warren, who led the research team, said: "We asked people about their reactions to the prospect of wind farms and how they actually reacted when they were put up.

"A large majority said their fears about them had failed to transpire.

"Respondents found no noise issues and to their surprise, they actually regarded the wind farms as attractive additions to the landscape."

The study uncovered similar attitudes in the Irish counties of Cork and Kerry, where 73% of respondents stated that their initial fears about wind farms were not realised.

The majority regarded the aesthetic impact as positive, at 62%, compared with 23% who believed it spoiled the scenery.

In Ireland, highest support for wind farms was found among people living closest to the sites, whereas residents further away from the site expressed more negative attitudes.

No more wind farms sign
Dr Warren called for a strategic planning framework

The survey also found that opponents and advocates of wind farms saw the world through "different lenses".

Dr Warren said: "We focused on people's general environmental attitudes before homing in on the wind farm issue.

"We found that people in favour of wind farms generally viewed environmental issues as global and justified their support on that basis.

"Opponents tended to view the environment as locally conceived and about protecting their local surroundings."

Dr Warren said there were still "real issues" associated with the impact of wind farms on landscape aesthetics and called for a strategic planning framework to guide the location of wind farm development.

The people on Lewis want renewable energy but wind farms are not the way to do it
Iain Macleod
Moorland Without Turbines

He said: "I wouldn't want anyone to conclude from our study that you can put wind farms anywhere and people will love them.

"I think people are absolutely justified in objecting to some of the inappropriate proposals for wind farms.

"The Scottish Executive should issue locational guidance, including what criteria we should use for deciding the right places for wind farms."

Iain Macleod, vice-chair of the Moorland Without Turbines group which has campaigned against wind farms proposals on the Isle of Lewis, said a distinction must be made between the Western Isles and other parts of Scotland.

He said: "Wind farms can fit in easier with the scale of the landscape on the mainland.

"The people here on the whole do desperately want renewable energy, they want the community to be viable but wind farms are not the way to do it."

A spokesman for the RSPB Scotland said: "The RSPB supports the principle of wind farms but objects to certain wind farms which it feels are badly sited, such as the Lewis Peatlands site, because of the impact on bird life."

Maf Smith, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: "This latest independent research reinforces what other research has already shown, that most Scots are supportive of wind farms."

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