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Papers seized in turbine row

Police took away documents from Aberdeenshire Council’s planning office in Banff last week over alleged serious irregularities surrounding applications for wind turbines.

At least a dozen people are believed to be claiming their names have been wrongly attached to a petition and letters of support for three 80-metre high turbines at Hilton, near Banff.

Some say they are opposed to those proposals, and had only given support for what they believed would be a smaller single turbine just 80-feet in height.

More than 250 names are on a petition of support, lodged with the council by Turriff-based developer Muirden Energy, for the 80-metre high turbines at Backhill of Culbirnie, Hill of Culbirnie and Little Blairshinnoch.

Muirden also lodged more than 30 standardised letters of support in its bid to win approval for the industrial-sized turbines which would reap millions in tariff payments.

A covering letter from Muirden to the council’s planning department said the petitions and letters had been “collected from locals who are in favour of all three developments…as you see we have been round nearly all of the people living close to the area and the vast majority were very supportive. With such local support and involvement…I hope this helps our chance of support from the planning services.”

On learning of last week’s police involvement, Muirden denied any “wrongdoing” and blamed the situation on a misunderstanding.

This week one local resident, who did not want to be named, told the Banffshire Journal: “I signed a letter about a year ago supporting in principle an 80-foot turbine – that is domestic size.

“I have now discovered that somebody has taken my name and address and put it to other documents which has been presented to the council as support for three separate applications for 80-meter high turbines.

That is most definitely not what I signed. I am so angry about this and I will be seeking legal advice about whether there is a data protection issue here.

“Something is wrong here and I’m trusting the police will get to the bottom of it.”

Another resident said: “I had already objected to the applications, and then recently discovered that I had been included as a supporter. I also discovered there were at least 12 people in a similar situation – so I called the police.

More people may be being misrepresented and not know about it yet.”

Daffyd Neale, of Hilton Cottage, Hilton, an opponent of the turbine applications, told the Banffshire Journal: “I have spoken to a number of people who say they have been misrepresented by the letters and petition.

“People who have agreed to a single 80-foot turbine have found their signatures submitted in support of three 80-metre turbines. They are angry –and they are emphatic that it has not been a matter of a misunderstanding.”

Banff and Buchan area committee councillors made a site visit to the locations last Tuesday.

The Banffshire Journal understand that councillors are expected to go ahead and consider the applications next Tuesday as planed, regardless of the police investigation.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman would only say: “We are helping the police with their inquiries regarding this matter.”

A Grampian Police spokeswoman said: “Inquiries are ongoing into allegations surrounding documents submitted in support of wind turbine applications in the Banff area.”

It is understood that police officers have already interviewed a number of households involved.

The applicants for the three proposed turbines are Duncan Greenergy, Muirden Energy and Mary Cumming of Baldavie, near Banff.

More than 60 objections have been received by the council to the proposals.

Planning officials are recommending refusal of the plans on a number of grounds including the adverse impact on the visual and residential amenity of nearby properties, their impact on nearby listed buildings and the ‘unacceptable’ accumulative impact of the development.

A Muirden Energy spokesman said: “We understand there appears to have been some misunderstanding regarding a small number of individuals who signed letters of support and because of this these individuals appear to have changed their mind, and we have no problem with that.

“If there has been any allegations of wrongdoing then we can categorically deny that. We held a public exhibition over a year ago to explain the scheme, and the planning application has been a public document since then, so nothing has been hidden. We are as disappointed by this as anyone.”

Concerned resident Daffyd Neale said: “The majority of letters of support and petition signatures were gathered before the public exhibition and subsequent submission of the planning applications – in other words, before it was publicly detailed what was being proposed.”