The applicant behind a proposed wind farm in rural Fife has been accused of trying to sway local opinion.
Earlier this week West Coast Energy – which has sought permission to build seven wind turbines measuring up to 120 metres high at Devon Wood, near Clatto Hill – held the first of three open meetings with local residents and community groups.
The Welsh company says the “Devon Wood Wind Farm Community Liaison Forum” has been established to canvass opinion of the plan and establish how best it could benefit the area financially if given the green light.
But the forum has been criticised by the Clatto Landscape Protection Group, which stands opposed to the application.
Its chairman, Greg Brown, believes the meeting was held to “deflect” attention from the application.
“The true nature behind all of this is to gain some public support for the application, which has attracted a lot of objection,” said Mr Brown.
However, West Coast Energy stressed its intention is to strengthen communications with residents and investigate creation of a community benefit fund.
The energy firm has proposed contributing £3000 per year for every megawatt generated, which could be paid into this fund to help local projects.
It adds that with a generating capacity of 17.5 mega watts, the annual fund may reach up to £52,500.
Despite this, Mr Brown says similar schemes have been set up elsewhere in the UK, and went so far as to say the move has become “customary.”
This week’s meeting was attended by a broad range of community representatives including people from Kennoway, Kettle and Cults as well as local MP Lindsay Roy’s office.
West Coast Energy invited the minister of St Kenneth’s Parish Church, the Rev Richard Baxter, to become the forum’s independent chairman. The minister said he was happy to accept and would ensure community voices surrounding Devon Wood are heard.
“My job will be to make sure those proposing the development are fully aware of the range of views held in the communities potentially affected by the scheme,” he said. “I will also work to make sure that if any scheme is approved under Fife Council’s planning process, local communities share fully and fairly in any benefit which arises.
“Taking care of local interests as the potential scheme develops is my central concern as chair of the community liaison forum.”
Planning and development manager for the Devon Wood Wind Farm proposal, Jonathan Cawley, said they are making good progress on the application.
“The positive environmental contribution will be significant and the seven turbines have been carefully designed to avoid any conflicts with aviation interests. It is our desire to continue to engage with local residents and to ensure they have a way to express their views on the project.
“By maintaining robust and constructive dialogue throughout the process, we aim to be in a position to deliver the best possible community benefit package.”
Anyone who would like to join the forum can contact Caroline Trainer on 0131 220 0159 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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