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Anger over wind farm cash 'bribe'

Anti-wind farm campaigners claim people were paid to attend meetings on future developments.

Last week, the Observer reported that a group of protesters calling themselves the Endrick Valley Action Group (EVAG) had been set up to oppose the proposed npower renewables Ballindalloch Muir wind farm between Buchlyvie and Balfron.

Now, EVAG says support and correspondence from residents has been coming in from across west Stirlingshire and people have been responding in numbers to a questionnaire in Balfron.

Buoyed by this, protesters are stepping up their fight by calling into question the npower renewables’ consultation efforts, saying the company had to pay people to attend the meetings held in June this year and March last year.

People who attended the meetings have said they were paid £30 expenses for turning up.

EVAG secretary, Mary Young, from Balfron, said: “The so-called public consultation process by npower is a sham.

“They paid invited guests £30 to go along to two meetings to hear people from the company tell us how wonderful this wind farm would be. It is tantamount to bribing people to come along to hear them try to persuade us that their monstrosities on our countryside would be a good thing.”

One of those who attended the March meeting was Gary Scott, who is also a member of Balfron Community Council.

He said: “Initially people were canvassed in the street and then we turned up on the night and received £30 for our attendance.

“The meeting in March felt less like a question and answer session and more like them heaping on us the benefits, such as community funds from the plans. Having done my own research on wind farms, I’m not against renewable energy, but am deeply concerned about the location close to the school and nurseries, noise and visual impact.”

EVAG says among their main concerns are the visual impact and noise impact – something which npower renewables said last year they were also aware of and had cut the number of turbines from 12 to nine as a result.

Npower denied that the £30 payments were an attempt at bribing people but a way of ensuring that more people, who might be put off by travel or care costs, attended.

The company’s renewables developer, Davin Aiken, said that Scottish Executive planning advice is for more effort to be put into getting single parents, the elderly or those without transport to be part of consultations. The proposals are being interpreted to include providing creche facilities for parents, buses and reimbursement of expenses such as child care and travel costs.

Mr Aiken said: “We discussed our consultation plans with Stirling Council planning department and the four local community councils prior to the event. In total, two-thirds of those who attended the evening said it was a good opportunity to take part in an informed discussion about our wind farm proposal.”

Mr Aiken added that full texts and details of consultation meetings can be found online at www.npower-renewables.com/ballindalloch.

Stirling Council said a formal application for the wind farm has not yet been submitted to the planning department.

icstirlingshire

10 August 2007