I recently came across the minute of a meeting of the University of St Andrews’ Kenly Farm Wind Development Project Board in January 2009. Two things stood out.
First, under Update on Public Consultation,
“it was reported that we are still facing a challenge in accessing the silent majority and we will need to think about how we do this as consultation spreads if the steps to investigate viability of this project prove positive”.
“it was noted that public perceptions around wind farms follow a typical u-shaped distribution where people are relaxed about the generalities of proposals, they then become more anxious as specifics become available and then their perception returns when things are in place and may even be enhanced”.
Seven years on, the wind farm remains as controversial as ever, with local communities overwhelmingly hostile. The University only won consent by a direct appeal to the Scottish Government. With 372 objections to the original application as well as objections from community councils for Boarhills and Dunino, Kingsbarns and St Andrews, Fife planners recommending refusal and a unanimous rejection by elected members of the North East Fife Area Committee, the ‘silent majority’ has proved to be a chimera.
As the University’s application for an unnecessarily circuitous and powerful grid connection comes to committee next week, there has been zero consultation with the affected residents and even more communities are up in arms. But never mind, the University knows best and the natives will come round in the end.
For those of us who champion universities as models of enlightenment, it is dispiriting beyond words to see Scotland’s premier seat of learning nobbled by academic hauteur and ruthless profit-seeking.