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Wind farm company targets children to drum up support for more turbines  

Credit:  By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor | The Telegraph | www.telegraph.co.uk ~~

A wind farm company has triggered outrage by targeting children as young as five in to drum up support for the construction of more turbines.

Primary pupils in North Ayrshire were handed plans, seemingly written by a developer, encouraging their parents to back a planning application for an extension to a wind farm in the area.

The letter contained a section for parents’ signatures at the bottom and was addressed to the local council’s planning department.

Critics yesterday expressed their anger at both the developer and SNP-run North Ayrshire council for allowing wind farm “propaganda” in the classroom but the local authority claimed the letters were “directly relevant” to the pupils’ school work.

The move is the most extreme yet of the pressure being exerted by wind farm companies on Scotland’s planning system as Alex Salmond strives to meet his target of generating the equivalent of all Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

It emerged last month that an average of five planning applications a day for wind farms had been lodged with councils since the SNP came to power in May 2007.

The Telegraph has also disclosed how local authorities have come under pressure to alter their planning blueprints to allow more turbines even where officials consider them to have reached “saturation point”.

Struan Stevenson, a Scottish Tory MEP, said: “That this letter has been endorsed and distributed by the council beggars belief.

“How can residents have faith in decisions on controversial planning proposals if it’s the council’s policy to allow distribution of pro-renewables propaganda on behalf of the developers?”

He said he would write to the Public Standards Commission for Scotland asking for an investigation into this “apparently blatant conflict of interest”.

The letter was handed to pupils at Dalry Primary School and St Palladius Primary School, also in Dalry.

“I am writing to support the planning application made by Community Windpower Ltd to construct the Millour Hill (wind farm) extension,” it read.

“I believe we should explore all forms of renewable energy in order to avoid the threat climate change poses. The wind farm will generate clean, green electricity, which will contribute to the Government’s renewable energy targets.

“As a supporter of renewable energy, I fully support the planning application and hope North Ayrshire Council will too.”

A whistleblower, who passed the document to a Sunday newspaper, said: “Kids as young as five are becoming a free postal service for lobbying for planning applications. This is a step too far.”

SNP ministers tried to distance themselves from the row, saying it was a matter for the local authority. A Scottish Government spokesman added: “We do not condone this approach.”

But a council spokesman was unrepentant, saying: “Pupils at the Dalry schools have been involved with projects related closely to the environment and sustainable energy and the distributed information was directly relevant to their school work.

“Neither of the schools are in any way endorsing the plans and are simply distributing information to the community.”

No one from Community Windpower was available for comment but a spokesman for Scottish Renewables, the trade body representing wind farm companies, said: “We would discourage developers against using such indirect means of contacting adults to support an ongoing planning application.”

Source:  By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor | The Telegraph | www.telegraph.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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