An Aberdeenshire woman was offered £750 a year if she did not object to plans for a windfarm extension near her home.
Rhynie pensioner Joan Robinson claimed she was repeatedly asked to keep concerns on the scheme – half a mile from her property – to herself. And last night a north-east MSP branded the cash incentive nothing more than a bribe.
Miss Robinson said she was asked to sign a document in return for an annual payment by Greenspan Electric Cairnmore, which wants to add five turbines to an existing three turbine windfarm.
Miss Robinson, 84, of Cairndard Croft, said: “It was put to me as a goodwill gesture but it seemed no more than a bribe.”
Miss Robinson said the offer was made by Greenspan director Grant Mackie.
She was told by the Citizens Advice Bureau not to sign anything without consulting a solicitor.
The pensioner said noise from the three turbines has forced her to move out of an upstairs bedroom, and she has to wear ear-muffs while working in her garden.
Miss Robinson is among hundreds of people to have sent representations on the expansion to planners.
A spokesman for the firm said the pensioner had agreed to an amicable offer in February, giving her a financial interest in the development, but subsequently revoked this.
“Scottish planning policy encourages developers to engage with communities prior to the submission of planning applications, which we did,” he said.
“The offer was meant as a goodwill gesture.”
Miss Robinson said: “The supposed goodwill gesture wouldn’t even cover my annual electricity bill.”
The former BT supervisor bought her home in 1983 to retire to a peaceful spot.
“Now I am constantly aware of the swish of the turbines’ blades, it’s like having a perpetual helicopter on your doorstep,” she said.
Politicians last night spoke out against the cash offer.
North-east Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “I can certainly see why miss Robinson is concerned about this. Companies should not be offering financial benefit as a bribe to people not to object.
“There should be legitimate discussion about community benefit and planning gain behind applications but that is quite different.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “A goodwill gesture is only a goodwill gesture if it is unconditional. A conditional gesture is something else.
“If they are effectively buying out someone’s right to object then that does seem to me to be crossing a line.”
And North-east Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said he did not want to use the word “bribe” but added the offer could “obviously be construed that way”.
“I have no objection to an individual getting this money but I have very serious concerns about the principles that lie behind it,” he said.
“The concept of community benefit when windfarms and wind turbines are erected is a valuable concept for us to have. It is delivering genuine benefit for many communities across Aberdeenshire.
“But when individual payments are made to individuals in order to secure their agreement it does get very close to the line in ethical terms.”
Objectors to the windfarm have formed the Rhynie Against Cairnmore Extension action group.
Chairman Alex Forbes, of Druminnor, said yesterday: “There is very strong opposition to this proposal, particularly over the detrimental impact these additional structures will have on the area’s landscape. Of the 253 letters submitted, 85% are objections.”
Greenspan’s extension plan will be discussed by Marr area committee councillors on December 13 in Alford Public Hall.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding