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Devon Wood windfarm proposer rejects claims scholarship offer is a ‘PR wheeze’

The firm behind controversial plans for a windfarm at Devon Wood in Fife insists it is offering one of the “most competitive” community benefit packages.

Officials at West Coast Energy say that, if given the green light, they will not only provide community organisation with lucrative funding but also establish a scholarship for local youngsters.

The company plans to build seven turbines with a blade tip height of 121 metres on land just north of Kennoway.

However, the plan to provide scholarships has not delighted all Fifers, with one critic describing it as a “PR wheeze” which “exploits the hopes” of local youngsters.

West Coast Energy insists the overall response has been far more positive, citing the success of a series of recent drop-in sessions. Officials said the scholarships provide an “exciting opportunity”.

“Seminars held in Kettle, Kennoway and Star aimed to give young people from the area an opportunity to find out more about the proposed scholarships and how they could benefit,” a spokeswoman said.

“Youngsters from all three communities turned out to meet with representatives from West Coast Energy and Carnegie College, who were on hand to discuss the scholarship initiative and how students could register their interest in becoming involved.”

West Coast Energy and Carnegie College announced their intention to create a scholarship opportunity for students who live within the Kennoway, Kettle and Star community council boundary areas at the start of September.

The scholarships would be offered to students from January to August 2012, should planning permission be granted by Fife Council for the proposed Devon Wood project.

Up to six scholarships could be available to young people, providing financial support for students studying engineering and renewables at the college.

West Coast Energy planning and development director Steve Salt said: “We are delighted that people from Kingskettle, Kennoway and Star attended our information evenings to find out more about the potential scholarship opportunities.

“We are keen to hear from other interested young people in the area, and intend to work closely with the local schools including Buckhaven High, Bell Baxter, Kirkland High and Auchmuchty High.”

Jim Brown, head of the Whitlock energy collaboration centre at the Carnegie College was similarly pleased.

“We are keen to speak to more potential candidates interested in this scholarship, and anyone who is interested in a career in renewables.”

However, not everybody is convinced, with Linda Holt among those opposing the Devon Wood plan.

She poured scorn on the proposed scholarship scheme, saying: “This highly controversial application has attracted hundreds of objections. A PR wheeze which exploits the hopes of youngsters living near Devon Wood marks a new low.”