The chairwoman of a group set up to negotiate a community benefits package as part of plans for a windfarm in north east Fife has stepped down.
Irene Walker has resigned from her position as independent chairwoman of the Lingo Wind Farm Community Benefit Forum following what has been branded by developers as a ”negative and sustained campaign” by local people opposed to the turbines near Largoward.
Ms Walker, a former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway and key industries director and rural relations director with Scottish Enterprise, had only been appointed to the role less than four months ago and was charged with liaising with the energy company behind the project to secure the best possible community benefits from it.
However, West Coast Energy – which remains hopeful its plans will find favour with Fife Council – has confirmed that negative publicity about the planned Lingo development has now forced her to relinquish the reins of the group.
Steve Salt, planning and development director of West Coast Energy, said: ”We are disappointed to announce that, due to a negative and sustained campaign by a number of individuals in the community, Irene Walker has made the difficult decision to stand down as independent chair of the Lingo Community Benefit Forum.
”Irene was appointed due to her excellent skills and knowledge in economic development and management. As such she was an ideal and appropriate chair for the forum, and was unanimously appointed by the group in October last year.
”Unfortunately, due to certain individuals who oppose our development using Irene’s appointment to generate negative media coverage, Irene has decided that she is no longer willing to chair the group in light of such hostility.
”We are deeply disappointed with the reception she has received, as indeed are the majority of the Lingo Community Benefit Forum members. We support Irene entirely in her decision, and hope the negative publicity relating to her will now be at an end.”
The company hopes to create a windfarm consisting of five 100m turbines on land north of the B940 road between Largoward and Dunino. The developer says that, if approved, it would be able to power around 7,000 homes a year using green energy.
The Lingo project is just the latest in a series of similar schemes masterminded by West Coast Energy, which has previously secured planning consent for nine turbines at Little Raith near Auchtertool and also wants to erect turbines at Clatto Hill between Kingskettle and Kennoway.
It is also behind plans for a windfarm on the Angus coast, where a similar community benefot forum is currently being set up.
Ms Walker is vice-chairwoman of the board at Elmwood College and has consistently maintained her independence as a representative on the forum.
However, concerns were raised by local residents that there may be a conflict of interest, with the local community council saying it was ”somewhat worrying” to see West Coast Energy working closely with Elmwood.
In light of Mrs Walker’s resignation, Martin Dibley, a member of the Royal Burghs of Kilrenny, Anstruther and Cellardyke Community Council and the East Neuk Community Councils Group, has been appointed interim chairman.
”He has committed to see the forum through the next month while they seek to appoint a new independent chair,” Mr Salt said. ”We are glad to see the Lingo CBF group has decided to continue.”
The group remains open to members of the public and the next meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 7, at 6.30pm at The Inn at Lathones.