A plan to build a £53 million wind farm on a Highland estate takes a step forward when councillors ignored officials’ advice and backed the project.
This is despite research claims that Wind farms “˜are failing to generate the predicted amount of electricity‘
Scottish Highlanders are used to uncontrolled developments being allowed to be built with scant regard to public opinion.
Highland Council officials are renown for their interpretation of the word “consultation”, which according to their definition of the word, means telling inhabitants what is going to be built despite local wishes.
Objections are nearly always “brushed” aside in the rush to “carpet” prime farmland with timber frame housing, to the delight of “build for profit” developers.
But hold on, amazingly the Highland Council Planning Director, John Rennilson, suddenly decides to wake up and has recommended that the authority object to the plan, which will be considered by the Executive.
This quite surprising stance seems to have completely thrown local Councillors who at the Ross and Cromarty area planning committee then voted 7-4 against making an objection, on condition that the plan is restricted to 17 turbines! So used are the Councillors to hearing planning officers suggest that plans are passed that they probably missed the sudden about turn – amazing.
In his report to the committee, Mr Rennilson said the site was not covered by any statutory natural heritage or landscape designations, but the Beinn Dearg and Ben Wyvis Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) were nearby, as were a number of sites of European significance for wild birds.
The site also lay in an area with a “presumption against” major wind farm development in the council’s renewable energy strategy.
The debate continues to rage at the decision and a considerable number of reasoned comments can be found on the pages of the Scotsman
However, Stop Lochluichart campaigners are calling for an urgent investigation into the background and financial stability of wind farm developer Infinergy Ltd. (Infinergy)
Full story: http://www.a-windfarm-too-far.com/
Infinergy partner Koop Duurzame Energie (KDE) is part of the Koop Group tainted for its role at the centre of a multimillion pound construction industry price fixing scam.
KDE joined forces with Savills the international property consultant to form Infinergy and exploit the wind farm market.
But the corruption link throws into question the fitness of Infinergy to be entrusted with Scottish development projects.
Infinergy and Lochluichart estate want to build 22 turbines each taller than Big Ben on a key tourist route from Inverness to the West Highlands.
But Stop Lochluichart campaigners say the planning application should have been put on hold pending a full investigation of Infinergy finances.
KDE is controlled by Koop Holdings, which also controls Koop Tjuchem (KT), fined more than £4 million in 2004 and 2005 for forgery and breach of Dutch competition rules.
The Dutch competition authority found KT and four other Dutch construction companies guilty of between them fixing the prices of Dutch Government construction contracts.
A former director of KT also went public to reveal the company was keeping two sets of accounts.
Koop boss Henk Koop (62) was sentenced to 180 hours community service for forgery and bribing a civil servant.
KDE will share in an estimated £7 million a year of UK taxpayers money if Lochluichart wind farm gets the go ahead.
The revelations could be an embarrassment to Infinergy partner Savills, key players in international property market.
The corruption link has alarmed local campaigners.
Lochluichart postmaster Harry Goudie, a leading campaigner against the wind farm, said: “Highland Council officials should look very closely at this firm’s background before they take any decision. After all, the developer will be picking up huge amounts of UK taxpayers’ cash.”
Sue Hopkinson, a retired teacher from Ullapool who has campaigned against the Lochluichart scheme from the outset, said: “The revelation of previous fraudulent practice by part of Koop Group confirms what campaigners against this proposed desecration of the Scottish countryside have known all along – it is all about money dressed up as a scheme to save the planet. “The whole application should go on hold until the Scottish Executive has carried out a thorough investigation.”
Experts commissioned by the Stop Lochluichart Wind Farm campaigners say the developer’s environmental statement supporting the proposal has exaggerated carbon-saving benefits by up to 150 per cent, failed to provide critical wind-speed data, published potentially misleading figures on electricity output and carried out inadequate rare bird surveys.
Infinergy and Lochluichart estates are expected to gross £300 million over the wind farms lifetime if Highland Council gives the project the green light. However, a final decision on whether to grant permission rests with the Scottish Executive.
22 April 2007
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