Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) have welcomed the comments by Sandwick North Street Grazings Committee Chairman, Mr Duncan Mackay, urging Lewis Windpower (LWP) to stop delaying the Beinn Ghrideag community wind farm.
A spokesman for PST said: “The Stornoway Trust wrote to LWP on 15 December asking them to approve our Beinn Ghrideag lease so that it could be signed off and sent to the crofting shareholders before Christma. It is now the middle of February and we are no further forward.
“The reason for this one and a half month delay has been Amec’s demand that we pay their legal costs for reviewing our lease with the Trust, fees which they estimate to be up to £20,000. They have refused to do any work on the Beinn Ghrideag lease until payment of this amount is guaranteed upfront.
“As a community charity, PST has no reserves of cash and we are not in a position to pay Amec until we reach financial close on Beinn Ghrideag and we get the development loan of £14 million from the Cooperative Bank. As a result of the delay, financial close will not now be till April at the earliest. The basic problem is that we cannot reach financial close without the lease document which Amec have refused to release, and so there has been a frustrating stalemate since Christmas.
“Every other big commercial company that we have dealt with, including law firms, construction firms and technical support firms, have understood and supported our position as a community project. They have all agreed to defer payment of their bills till financial close is reached. The one exception has been Amec.
“In January, we asked Amec to accept the same deferred payment terms that the other companies had agreed to, and they refused. We offered to provide personal indemnity from our Directors for the £20,000 and they refused. The Stornoway Trust also offered to provide indemnity for which we were grateful, but still Amec refused. The only compromise Amec offered was to extend the payment date to March 31 but as this still requires us to guarantee payment before financial close, it was no compromise at all.”
He highlighted: “Some people will be puzzled that a community project on common grazings on community-owned land requires vetting and approval by Amec before it can go ahead. That is a consequence of Amec’s lease which we have agreed to accept and which we are trying our best to comply with in keeping with the Stornoway Trust’s wishes.
“Fortunately, thanks to an offer of support from the Cooperative Bank, we hope we are now in a position where this stalemate can be overcome. We are delighted to be able to announce that the Cooperative Bank have offered to step in and underwrite the payment of Amec’s fees. They have made this offer while at the same time making clear their own surprise and disappointment at Amec’s fees demand for a community project like Beinn Ghrideag.
“We are very grateful to the Cooperative Bank for the robust support they have shown at this critical stage for the Beinn Ghrideag community wind farm. We believe that it is more than any other Bank would have provided, and that this is thanks to the Coop’s ethical and socially responsible outlook.
“We hope that Amec/LWP will now urgently release the Beinn Ghrideag lease so that we can move forward to construction in the summer and use the income next year to benefit communities in Point and Sandwick as well as organisations such as Bethesda and HILLS that bring benefit to everyone in the islands.”
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