A 15-hectare solar farm could be imposed on islanders "without community consent", an MSP warned. 

Planning officers have recommended that North Ayrshire Council approves proposals for 12,000 solar panels and accompanying battery energy storage systems on the Isle of Cumbrae.

The final decision will be made this week and follows hundreds of complaints by residents and the community council.

Scottish Labour MSP for West Scotland, Katy Clark, said there had been a "complete failure to engage with islanders". 

"Islanders will no doubt be gutted at this decision, particularly as the hundreds of objections to the proposal appears to have proven immaterial in the planning officer’s decision," she said. 

“The fact is that this project has been imposed without community consent.

"There’s been a complete failure to engage with islanders on this project or listen to concerns about the suitability of the site, its status as a tourism hotspot, the effects on the wider conservation area or the lack of environmental impact assessment."

Many residents have expressed that the chosen site is not appropriate for the development. 

The proposed farm would be adjacent to the Glaid Stone viewpoint and the highest site on the island. It is used by residents for picnics and as a local beauty spot. 

HeraldScotland: GV from the Glaid Stone viewpoint overlooking the site of a proposed solar farmGV from the Glaid Stone viewpoint overlooking the site of a proposed solar farm (Image: Colin Mearns)

It also lies within the Great Cumbrae Special Landscape Area and the Barbay Hill Local Nature Conservation Site.

While developers stated they had carried out a “full and robust assessment of protected species”, the community council called it “inadequate”.

A single-day survey only discovered a single protested bird species, while residents have registered sightings of at least 20 endangered species with the RSPB.

The Herald previously reported that developers Comsol submitted a 17-page report described as a "rebuttal" to the concerns raised by the Cumbrae Community Council.

READ MORE: 'We’re right and you’re wrong': Islanders fear solar farm concerns ignored

HeraldScotland: The site of the proposed solar farm development on Isle of CumbraeThe site of the proposed solar farm development on Isle of Cumbrae (Image: Comsol)

Artist and qualified architect Dr Gregor Harvie said at the time that developers had not engaged with their concerns and "just refuted all of them".

Ms Clark added: “Islanders are clear: they are supportive of renewable energy generation and many have welcomed that Cumbrae has been designated as one of the six islands designated for support to become carbon neutral from 2040.

"But their concerns in this instance have been completely overridden by the whims of a big developer.

“I am disappointed by the decision and the support for the project expressed by North Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Government.

"I would strongly urge the planning committee to reject this proposal, which must go back to the drawing board until real engagement with the community has taken place.”

Planning officers set out ten conditions for the approval including requests for a Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) and a landscaping scheme before development begins.

Alex Harvie, chair of Cumbrae Community Council, said that "none" of the conditions listed related to the fact that the majority of the responding population objected to the solar farm. 

"Much to Island of Cumbrae’s disappointment, the Planning Team at North Ayrshire has passed on recommendations to the Planning Committee that the proposal for to build a Solar Farm at the top of the island be given the go-ahead," she said.

"The community’s objections have been taken up in one or two paragraphs as ‘individual’ items, but the fact that over 300 of our small community expressed their unequivocal opposition to the solar farm has been ignored."

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An objection submitted by the community council questioned the lack of explicit commitment to supply the island with the generated energy and that they have yet to see meaningful engagement despite the applicant having "seven years to deal with these issues". 

A 5MW scheme was first proposed by Comsol Energy Limited in 2016 but was not built.

Another application submitted in July 2022 provoked the submission of 263 comments to North Ayrshire Council - of which 96% were objections. The application was withdrawn by Comsol Energy Limited.

The latest application would include battery energy storage systems and a total output of 19MW.

The community council chair added: "The irony that electricity bills are crippling many families on this island is not lost on our community. 

"Nor is the fact that this will represent a loss of vital habitat for 20 endangered birds not recognised by the applicant, at the same time as the BBC and wildlife groups spearhead national calls to protect against habitat loss.

"The proposals will blight a tranquil beauty spot on the island and damage the tourism trade on which the fragile local economy relies. It is a sad and difficult day for residents on Cumbrae."

Comsol has been approached for comment.