A former deputy first minister was left red-faced last night after council planners rejected a second botched windfarm application by his new green-energy firm.
Nicol Stephen – now Lord Stephen – has been told to withdraw plans for three huge turbines in Aberdeenshire because of factual inaccuracies in his proposals. It is the second time this year that the Liberal Democrat politician’s company – Renewable Energy Ventures – has been sent back to the drawing board over false claims in his environmental statement.
The former MSP for Aberdeen South blames the agent who created the statement and has described the situation as “disappointing”.
The blunders have angered campaigners fighting to block the project, which would involve three 325ft turbine towers being erected on land west of Blackhills Farm at Cushnie. One neighbour has accused the peer – who stood down from Holyrood earlier this year after 28 years representing the city and north-east at both the Scottish and UK parliaments – of wasting the local authority’s time and money.
Caroline Gerrie, who lives at Blackhills Farmhouse, said a second caution from planners showed “gross incompetence”. She said: “To have to withdraw one application because of inaccurate information is bad enough, but to have to withdraw two begs the question about what they are trying to achieve. Whatever the motives, this is asheerwasteof everyone’s time and effort and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Council officials have rejected the latest application because the location of two turbines on the site plan do not match the grid references given on the environmental statement. They say one turbine has been placed nearly 200ft outside the site boundary, while the location of the second is unclear.
The proposal was withdrawn in May after the same officers discovered the statementwaslitteredwith“factual inaccuracies”. At the time, a spokesman for Lord Stephen’s agent, Green Cat Renewables, acompany based nearlanark, said the errorswerea“genuine mistake”.
Ina letter this week, council planner James Wheater said: “Whilst I acknowledge that mistakes do happen, this is the second incidence within two applications where material hasbeenpresentedwhich is inaccurate or leaves a high degree of uncertainty.”
He has requested a third “consistent and accurate” application to avoid wasting any more time.
Last night, Lord Stephen criticised his agent for the inaccuracies and said he wanted the proposal resubmitted immediately. “The company have made it clear that they accept full responsibility for these mistakes. Clearly the situation is very disappointing. It is in everyone’s interests that a full and accurate planning application is submitted as quickly as possible.”
Lord Stephen has already faced criticism over the project, which is his first since joining forces with former Body Shop director Michael Ross to create Renewable Energy Ventures.
Ms Gerrie, who is chairwoman of the group Stop Turbines in Cushnie, said it was ridiculous to expect people to analyse another application – especially when earlier versions had been full of mistakes. She said: “The developershave aduty toprovide truthful, accurate and up-to-date information about the proposed development so that individuals can evaluate the facts and decide how they want to respond to the application. What they have provided to the public – twice now – is a package of information which is inaccurate, incomplete and is riddled with ambiguity.”
Green Cat Renewables declined to comment when contacted by the Press and Journal last night.
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