Plans to spread cash from a controversial windfarm’s community fund across the whole of Perth and Kinross have been slammed by opponents.
The £160,000 pot was expected to be dispensed to groups around the Calliacher windfarm site as compensation for the scheme being established in rural Perthshire.
The practice of establishing a community investment fund is a common sop from developers to residents based around large-scale windfarms.
In a change of policy, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has revealed only half the fund will be spent in the immediate Amulree area, with the rest potentially distributed further afield.
The company insists there will actually be more money in the pot from the windfarm, which was controversially passed by the Scottish Government amid bitter local opposition.
Aberfeldy’s Victor Clements said: ”I am uncomfortable with this. I would certainly agree that the additional money should be spread over a bigger area, but Perth and Kinross is too large, the money would have to be spread too thinly.
”This money will have been generated in Highland Perthshire. The benefit money is compensation to us. Now, half of it is to be used elsewhere, possibly to plug a hole in another budget or to deliver an unfunded commitment that would otherwise not progress. This would be like taking money out of our Common Good Fund for projects elsewhere.”
Fellow Aberfeldy resident Andrew Pointer said: ”Highland Perthshire has had two windfarms undemocratically imposed upon us and our unspoilt landscape has been severely tarnished.
”When these schemes were first mooted the developers clearly stated the cash would only go to the directly-affected community council areas. To disperse these funds throughout the wider area of Perth and Kinross is therefore unacceptable.
”However, given that extra cash is going to come from Calliacher and that this windfarm will have a much greater impact on the Loch Tay mountain landscape, then I would not be against the fund being spread wider to include the communities around Loch Tay, Glen Lyon and Rannoch, so they too can get some redress from this renewables scam, which could yet prove a serious impediment to our tourism economy.”
The 14-turbine Calliacher development was passed by Scottish ministers after a lengthy and expensive public inquiry in 2010, despite being rejected by Perth and Kinross Council. Although building work has not even started yet, SSE has already won the right to increase the original size of its turbines to 100 metres. The firm’s Ross Easton said its rule changes will actually see more money spent on community projects in the area.
He said: ”The new Calliacher windfarm will be the first to fall under our new community investment policy, which is similar in some ways but more advanced than other areas.
”Rather than the previous £2000 per megawatt which is placed in the fund, it is £5000 per megawatt which is then split: 50% to the regional fund of all Perth and Kinross and 50% within the local area.
”So, the fund is increased by £500 per megawatt and there is also the potential that the regional fund money will be spent locally as well, providing things like skills development, community energy schemes and environmental projects.”
Dull and Weem Community Council chairwoman Marjorie Keddie said the matter will be discussed at its meeting this week. She said: ”I don’t know what the community council position will be but personally I don’t have much problem with it.
”My only reservation is that they seem to want to do an awful lot with a very little amount of money regionally and that money would be a windfall locally.”
The nearby 68-turbine Griffin windfarm – also operated by SSE – has brought with it a £330,000-a-year community fund which has already been put to a variety of uses, including helping fund the new Aberfeldy cinema project.
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