The drama unfolded at Ayr’s County Buildings when South Ayrshire Council were asked to decide their position on the 23 turbine development at Dersalloch, between Straiton and Dalmellington.
Prestwick Airport was one of more than 2000 objectors to the proposal by Scottish Power.
Council officials had recommended that the committee lodged a formal objection to the application with the Scottish Executive, who will make a decision on its future.
The move would have prompted a public inquiry.
Tory councillors were stunned when Councillor Torrance arrived at the meeting, from Ayr Hospital, with just minutes to spare. They were equally taken aback when Labour’s Helen Moonie also travelled from a conference in Edinburgh to cast her vote.
Tory councillor Peter Convery said: “Paul came in at the last gasp. He was clearly in some discomfort.
“He moved the motion to reject the recommendation, which was seconded by Helen. We were stunned.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this was a cynical and calculated decision by these Labour councillors. Ultimately it has scuppered any chance of a public inquiry.”
Councillor Convery added: “This council was the only avenue open to nearly 2000 objectors in neighbouring East Ayrshire to have their concerns raised at a major public enquiry. Further to that, grave concerns have been raised by both Air Traffic Control and Glasgow Prestwick Airport in relation to air safety issues.
“I never thought I would see the day when so-called socialists would get into bed with big business and turn their back on ordinary decent folk.
“This was no sudden decision by Labour, it was a cold calculated plan to ensure that no public inquiry should ever take place.”
However, Councillors Torrance and Moonie insist that they made the decision for the right reasons.
Councillor Torrance said: “I have been involved with this application since it was first lodged three years ago. It was an important decision that will affect the people I represent so of course I wanted to be there.
“There is no question over air safety being compromised, we made this recommendation with the condition that these issues are ironed out before any final decision is made.
“I feel strongly that South Ayrshire should not miss out on the significant benefits that this development may bring.”
And Councillor Moonie, whose Prestwick ward takes in the airport, added: “There are fundamental issues that still need to be resolved with regards to safety at Prestwick Airport, I understand that.
“But there are conditions built into the recommendation that we made that will overcome that.
“I do not feel that I have let the airport down and I have stood up for them.”
11 April 2007
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