A furious row over a windfarm’s community payments came to a head with an attempt to eject a Highland councillor from a meeting, it emerged yesterday.
The clash came at Strathnairn Community Council when Councillor Jim Crawford, who is openly opposed to windfarms, was accused of secretly meeting a windfarm company about the handling of community benefit cash from one of its developments.
The community council claims Mr Crawford, who represents Inverness South, went behind their backs to meet Renewable Energy Systems (RES) about the Dunmaglass Windfarm south of Inverness, and claimed he was guilty of double standards.
He was accused at the meeting of betraying the local community – and it was then that attempts were made to eject him from Farr Community Hall. Mr Crawford refused to leave.
Acomplaint isnowbeing made about him to Highland Council.
Mr Crawford said yesterover day: “I hate windfarms but that doesn’t mean I can’t look after my own constituents when it comes to community benefit.”
RES has permission for a 33-turbine windfarm and local communities stand to earn around £ 2million 25 years. Strathnairn community councillor Paul Davies said yesterday that they had signed an agreement with RES regarding the community benefit which stated that the moneywouldbe paid to the community council. The council would then hand it over to Strathnairn Community Benefit Fund.
MrDavies said: “But suddenly we got a letter from RES saying that they were going to pay the money straight to Strathnairn Community Benefit Fund, rather than via the community council.”
He said Mr Crawford and the local Highland Council ward manager, along with a representative of Strathnairn Community Benefit Fund, met RES representatives shortly before the letter. Mr Crawford refused to give details of what was discussed.
Mr Davies said: “We feel he has betrayed the trust of the community. It also seems like double standards that a councillor, who is known to be anti-windfarm, is secretly meeting a windfarm company.”
Community council chairwoman Jenny Stewart said: “I told Jim Crawford that he was no longer welcome at the meeting and asked him to leave, but he said there was nothing I could do about it.”
Mr Crawford said: “I was approached by constituents concerned about money being paid to the community council so I asked the ward manager to facilitate a meeting with RES.”
He added: “The community council chairwoman has no right to tell an elected member to leave. It was outrageous.”
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