A public inquiry into the controversial Blackcraig windfarm application looks set to hit the council in the pocket.
An external consultant will need to be hired to defend their decision to object to Scottish and Southern Energy’s (SSE) multi-million pound turbine project.
This is because council planners – who recommended the 23-turbine project for approval – are unlikely to represent the local authority at the inquiry which will be held within the next six months.
It is not an unusual course of action given that the planners would not turn up and give a different view to their professional opinion specified in detailed reports.
The final bill for the inquiry could cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Members at a meeting of the full council in February voted 21-14 against the project on the grounds that it would have an impact on tourism.
Roland Chaplain, acting on behalf of a 1,000 strong petition of people within a 20-mile radius of the Glenkens who support the windfarm, asked council governance officer Alex Haswell if that vote could be returned to the council.
But their pleas will go unanswered after Mr Haswell admitted that there is “no provision” for the current members to review a decision taken by the previous council.
SSE’s proposals had previously been stonewalled at meetings of the Stewartry area and planning and environment services committees.
As the windfarm would produce more than 50MW of electrical generation, the Scottish Executive will have the final say on the scheme.
They notified the council last week of their decision to take the matter to a public inquiry.
A pre-inquiry hearing has been set for August 15 with a date then set for the public inquiry which is expected to last a week.
No decision has been taken yet on who will state the council’s case but that issue must be decided in the next six weeks.
A Scottish Executive spokesman told the ‘News’ that the council could withdraw their objection to the application at any time.
He added: “The matter would then be passed on to Ministers.”
Should SSE win the inquiry, they could put an invoice into the council in order to recover costs.
Alison Chapman, co-ordinator of Galloway Landscape and Renewable Energy (GLARE) welcomed the latest development.
“This is something we have argued for for a long time,” she said. “These things take there time but the most important thing is that there will be a comprehensive discussion.
“GLARE is quite convinced that wind is possibly a renewable energy source and might have a place offshore.
“It doesn’t have a place on the top of Blackcraig Ridge.
“The intrusion of this windfarm will deter tourism and it will have an impact on wildlife to a degree that is unacceptable.”
But Mr Chaplain, of the Glenkens Sustainable Development Steering Group (GSDSG), said: “It remains our view that such an inquiry would be a waste of time, human resources and money.
“All the other statutory consultees, including the council’s own experts, had no substansive objection to the siting of the Blackcraig windfarm.
“People living in the Glenkens and the surrounding area had an exceptional number of opportunities to engage with the developers in line with the new Scottish Government’s model for community engagement with the developers of major energy projects.”
By Colin Paterson
28 June 2007
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