A public Inquiry into the controversial Blackcraig windfarm project could cost the council up to £400,000, a report has confirmed.
Members of the finance sub-committee were made aware of the possible financial implications facing the cash-strapped local authority at a meeting last Thursday.
The planning, housing and environment committee requested £87,000 to employ external consultants to fight the council’s corner at the inquiry next year.
But their application for funding was knocked back – with the committee told to find the cash from within their own budget.
Councillors also reserved judgement on sourcing the £300,000 that may be needed to pay costs at the end of the inquiry.
Scottish and Southern Energy’s (SSE) proposal to build 23 turbines at Blackcraig was objected to by three different council committees.
The ‘News’ revealed in August that officials within the council were worried that fighting the multi-million pound application – which will ultimately be decided by the Scottish Government – could cost as much as £400,000.
The report stated that there is a “high risk” in costs being awarded to SSE.
The ‘News’ has been told that the minimum legal team required to defend the action is a junior counsel and a solicitor while a planning consultant could also be employed to represent the council’s view.
It said: “The cost of employing representation will be incurred in the current financial year.
“Any award of costs would most likely have to be met in the course of 2008-09.
“No resources have been allocated to meet the costs involved in this case, nor the costs of any similar future cases.
“The costs associated with windfarm inquiries are very high.
“And the windfarm industry benefits from government subsidies which enable it to employ strong professional representation at inquiries.”
Mr Bell added: “By contrast, the council has very limited resources, and value for money would be best achieved by opposing only those developments against which there is a strong case.
“It is considered that there is a high risk of substantial costs being awarded against the council in this case.”
Castle Douglas and Glenkens councillor Peter Duncan insists the council could defend the objection at a cost less than what is being quoted.
He said: “We need to look at every opportunity for saving financial expenditure.
“I think there is a less expensive way of stating the council’s position at this inquiry.
“But we need to put it forward at the least possible cost to the tax-payer.”
4 October 2007
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