A hostile community bid is being considered to buy the controversial windfarm rights on Pairc estate on Lewis.
The Scottish Government has indicated that it will permit a fast-track route for villagers to try to secure multi-million pounds profits from a proposed giant windfarm.
The first hostile bid under the Land Reform Act was launched by Pairc Trust to take over the whole of the crofting estate. But it was stalled by an attempt by the current owner to hold on to the massive rental payments for decades from a planned giant windfarm.
With such high stakes, landlord Barry Lomas refused to voluntarily sell the land in south-east Lewis. Residents attempted to use the Land Reform Act to force him to sell. But a blunder by politicians meant that interposed leases could not be taken over even if the community got the land.
To pre-empt any forced community purchase, Mr Lomas set up a separate company called Pairc Renewables. The estate leased the energy rights to the new entity which subsequently signed a lucrative deal with Scottish and Southern Energy to erect a giant windfarm.
Recently, the Scottish Land Court ruled the interposed lease was legal and would mean Mr Lomas could hold on to the massive windfarm profits into the middle of the century. The community would only receive £1,000 annually.
Now a clause in the new crofting law means that such leases can be bought but cannot be backdated. It was feared that Pairc had to withdraw its original application and resubmit a fresh bid to include the energy generation rights.
Donnie Macdonald, chairman of community body Pairc Trust, confirmed that the government has informally indicated that a simple additional application requesting the purchase of the energy lease could be submitted instead of restarting the whole lengthy process.
The colossal error by politicians over the interposed leases overshadowed the South Uist and Galson community buyouts. They eventually proceeded with an amicable purchase although the interposed leases would have been bargaining tools to the landlord’s benefit. Galson is now bound to share future windfarm rentals even including the profits from any community scheme with the previous owners.
5 September 2007
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