Two green energy giants planning massive wind farms in South Lanarkshire were this week accused of trying to influence the planning process.
Banks Rewables are awaiting the final go ahead from the Scottish Government over plans to erect 26 132-metre turbines at Kype Muir, near Kype Reservoir, between Strathaven and Kirkmuirhill.
And Falck Renewables and Coriolis Energy have applied to South Lanarkshire Council for permission to put up a further 12 turbines, of the same height, also near the reservoir at Auchroberthill.
In November last year, Banks gave a £4900 donation to the Scottish Covanenter Memorial Association for work to restore the 200-year-old Auchengilloch Covenanter Memorial, near Strathaven.
Now, Falck have announced plans for a discounted energy scheme for 12,000 households within 10 kilometres of their proposed windfarm.
Kype Angling Club’s members fish the Kype Reservoir which is close to land earmarked for both wind farms.
Their 50-strong membership submitted an 150-page objection to the Banks’ proposal and have similar reservations about the Falck plan.
Dougie Moir (64), secretary of the club, who helped frame their objection, said he had reservations about the way both Banks and Falck had approached the planning process.
“Banks gave almost £5000 for the restoration of a monument while the planning process was under way and now Falck are offering a cheap energy scheme for people in the area,” he added.
“The Banks’ donation smacked of sharp practice and this latest offer from Falck is the same.
“These type of companies have an answer for everything and if they don’t have an answer then they throw money at it and this is what they are doing.
“It’s just a way of trying to sway public opinion and I personally see it as not quite in keeping with the way companies should conduct themselves during a planning process. They should have waited until the process was over until announcing something like this.”
Mr Moir said he had written to the Scottish Government to complain about the timing of Banks’ donation and the announcement by Falck of their discounted energy scheme.
The club are concerned that the construction of the two windfarms will affect the purity of the reservoir water and possibly the structure of the Kype Reservoir dam.
The reservoir was built in the 1880s by Hamilton Town Council and still provides water for homes.
Mr Moir also believe that because many of the renewable energy companies are based in Europe, these windfarms and others being constructed in Scotland are creating jobs on the Continent and not here.
Mr Moir added: “When you go fly fishing you need peace and quiet and we know that once these turbines go up things will never be the same again .
“To drop them down anywhere then ride roughshod over people who oppose them is just wrong.”
Although there were 11 objections , to the Banks’ plan, South Lanarkshire Council approved the scheme last March.
David Morris, project manager for Coriolis did not anticipate any environmental impact on the reservoir or its water quality.
“Any perceptible noise from the turbines is only likely to occur at wind speeds which would be too high for fly fishing to be practical,” he added.
Regarding the cheap energy scheme, he added: “Our latest community benefit scheme was devised in response to specific feedback at the Auchrobert public exhibitions (at which their plans were outlined). A number of respondents living close to the wind farm suggested that discounts on electricity bills would be of greater interest than the usual forms of community benefit and we have been pleased at the feedback we have received so far.”
A Banks spokesman added: “We identify local community groups and voluntary organisations and environmental projects that we can support in the vicinity of our developments and encourage them to apply for grants through the Banks Community Fund. Local groups can apply for consideration for eligible projects and we have been in touch with several groups in the area so far. Funding is administered independently from the Banks Group and the allocation of grants is not determined by whether or not a group supports our proposals.”
Banks say they intend to provided £6.6million of funding for community projects in the area over the next 25 years and develop a specific jobs’ initiative linked to Kype Muir Wind Farm.
A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said a renewable energy fund had been set up to provide funding to suitable projects providing community benefits in eligible areas.
She added: “Wind farm developers are encouraged to contribute.
“However this is not a material planning consideration and is therefore not taken into account as part of the planning application process.”
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