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Red faces for trust  

Credit:  By Graham Crawford, Banffshire Journal, www.banffshire-journal.co.uk 24 May 2011 ~~

A crofter was racially abused last week after a turbine plan was wrongly stated to be on his land.

The incident has caused huge embarrassment for Banff and Macduff Community Trust which is behind the proposal.

Both the trust and the farmer on whose land it would be built have since had to insist there was no intention to deceive the public.

Incredibly, the trust publicised the wrong site despite its chairman, Ian Hardie, being warned five days earlier by another crofter that it was naming the wrong location.

The bungle could not have come at a worst time for the trust which has spent a year establishing two turbine sites. Today (Tuesday) it is holding an initial consultation to persuade neighbouring communities of the benefits of two wind structures, between Aberchirder and Cornhill.

It is promising “a proportion of the annual profits” to be given to Cornhill and Aberchirder.

The crofter who was abused, a 63-year-old disabled man who moved to Hill of Ord, near Cornhill with his wife 11 years ago, told the ‘Banffshire Journal’: “I was stunned and horrified.

“This stranger came up to me on my land and said: ‘You are the b****** putting up the turbines.’

“He then asked if I owned Blackhills Moss. When I said yes, he called me a f****** English b******.

“I was stunned. At that point I knew nothing about any turbine plan. It was really upsetting for me and my wife who is recovering from cancer.”

The crofter, who does not want named, said: “I have since had an apology from my neighbour, Rae McGookin, of New Croft, who owns the land where the turbine would be placed. She said she had come at it the wrong way round.

“As for the trust chairman, Ian Hardie, he should resign. Anybody who allows this kind of sloppy approach should have no access to public funds.”

The turbine in question is set to be located approximately 200-250 yards away from Blackhills Moss.

The crofter who alerted Mr Hardie of the wrong location told the ‘Banffshire Journal’: “I went to see him at the trust office at Banff Castle on May 6 after receiving a letter notifying me of the trust’s plans.

“I had questions to ask him about the turbine which he could not answer.

“Three times I told him they had the wrong address in the plan. He just said, ‘It will be corrected’.

“I will oppose this turbine, and so will my neighbours. There are 31 families within a mile of it, and I think they are all against it.

“Why should a Banff and Macduff group reap the benefits of something they put in Cornhill? If it wants a turbine, it should put it in its own area.”

Five days after the crofter met Mr Hardie, the trust issued a press release identifying one of the turbine sites as Blackhills Moss. A second turbine is earmarked for Culvie, at Finnygaud.

Last Thursday, Mr Hardie said he had accepted Blackhills Moss as the location on good faith from Rae McGookin, and did not think it mattered when he was told he had the wrong site. “Blackhills Moss is a generic term for the area,” he said. “There was never an intention to deceive anyone. We should have given the proper name from the outset.”

He said the trust intended to pursue the project and convince residents of its benefits, and acknowledged there would be opponents to it.

He also revealed that the trust was receiving a grant to go through the planning process which would be paid back if successful.

If given planning go ahead, the trust would seek to borrow a total of £2 million to fund the turbines.

Mrs McGookin said: “There was never an intention to deceive. We are exploring a business opportunity which has the potential to benefit the community and myself.”

Asked about the plans upsetting surrounding residents, she replied: “Such is always the case. People are entitled to their own views.”

The first phase of the community consultation is today (Tuesday) at the trust’s The Green Tree cafe in Banff, however the trust came in for further criticism for holding the event from 10am to 2pm when many people cannot get away from work to attend.

The trust provoked anger from competitors of the cafe for setting it up without consulting them about the impact it would have on their businesses. They were further angered earlier this year to learn that the trust had received public funding of £35,000 to sustain its objectives.

Source:  By Graham Crawford, Banffshire Journal, www.banffshire-journal.co.uk 24 May 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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