March 29, 2013

Wind farm row as Girvan Community Council is accused of getting cosy with developers

By Harriet Brace | Published on Friday 29 March 2013 | Carrick Gazette |

A cold wind blows at the backs of Girvan community councillors as involvement with windfarm developers provokes allegations of illegal activity.

At the March meeting of South Ayrshire Council’s regulatory panel Girvan Community Council was accused of “unacceptable” relations with PNE Wind, the applicants behind the eight-turbine Tralorg wind farm refused by the panel.

GCC chairman Ken Johnstone spoke on behalf of the community council, voicing their support for the Tralorg application.

“The applicant has communicated with from day one on community benefit and siting one of the turbines,” Mr Johnstone said, recounting the relocation of some turbines and reductions to blade tip heights as examples of their negotiations.

“PNE have promised community benefit which could provide much-needed regeneration funds,” he added.

But Maybole councillor Ann Galbraith told Mr Johnstone he should have done his homework before meeting with PNE representatives, and Troon councillor Nan McFarlane questioned the legality of GCC’s actions under the Scottish Government’s Planning Advice Note 47.

However, after careful examination of the advice it emerged that, while discussions on the planning merits of applications is “strongly discouraged” between planning applicants and community councils, it is not prohibited.

The document states that it is up to the planning authority to discuss issues with various parties if they think it necessary before coming to a decision.

Mr Johnstone said he was puzzled by the panel’s response. “I really didn’t expect the reaction I got,” he said. He even compared the procedure he was subjected to to the Spanish Inquisition – being only allowed to speak once and then required to remain silent while panel members discussed a potential breach of legislation.

“I felt that we had negotiated a good deal for our district,” Mr Johnstone said. “If I am accused of trying to get more work and funds for Girvan and District, then I plead guilty.”

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