May 14, 2011

Taxpayers' cash used to build road for developer

By John Ross, The Scotsman, 14 May 2011

Questions have been raised over the use of £1 million of public money to help fund a route to be used to access a wind farm.
Carraig Gheal’s 20-turbine wind farm development needs a road but the funding of it in part with public money has led to anger

Green Power (Carraig Gheal) is behind proposals for a 20-turbine site east of Oban.

The developer originally offered funding for a timber haul route which would also provide access to its wind farm site. This was accepted by Forest Enterprise and consent for the 22-mile West Loch Awe Timber Haul Route (WLATHR) was granted as a joint venture.

However, it has emerged that £1m of the £5m cost of the route is now to be paid from the Scottish Government’s Strategic Timber Transport Fund (STTF).

The move angered some locals, who say the fund should be used only for timber transport, not to help private developers.

Jane Organ, convener of Avich and Kilchrenan Community Council, said: “We are all for this road as we don’t want construction traffic through the village. But what’s going on? Surely it is not what the fund was for and the whole idea was that Green Power was going to do it.”

The community council has submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Forestry Commission seeking clarification about the funding and whether income from the wind farm will help pay for the route.

Resident Christine Metcalfe added: “The WLATHR must undoubtedly be of a much higher specification to allow for turbine and associated traffic transport. Therefore, the fund will be paying out substantially more than would be required for a normal forestry route.

“May the public be confident and assured that the developer benefiting will be required to honour their original commitment to fund the route, from future wind farm revenues?

“Could failure to impose this charge raise questions in respect of misuse of public funds?”

The Forestry Commission said the £5.3m cost of the road will be met by £4,104,000 from Green Power (including £150,000 in kind); £1m from the STTF; £210,000 in kind from Forest Enterprise Scotland and £62,000 in kind from Argyll & Bute Council.

A spokesman said building the road would remove 4,200 lorry loads of timber traffic each year from the villages of Kilchrenan, Ford, Dalavich and Inverinan. “We believe that this option presents a very good value for money option for the public purse as it will allow access to timber supplies, reduce road maintenance costs, importantly divert thousands of lorry trip away from small rural communities and Green Power gets access to the wind farm.”

A Green Power spokesman said: “It is entirely appropriate that the WLATHR was deemed eligible for support from STTF as it represents approximately 35km of forest road engineered to a specification to facilitate the long-term needs of timber haulage.”

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