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‘One-sided’ debate claim over windfarm

There is growing concern among community groups that a “one-sided argument” is being presented in favour of a Perthshire wind farm bid.

Banks Renewables held public exhibitions in Inchture and Balbeggie last month to promote its plans to build six 132m-high turbines on the Bandirran Estate near Balbeggie.

The company has stated that surrounding communities stand to earn around £168,000 per year from the proposed Carse of Gowrie windfarm, and that up to 20% of the £26 million construction costs would be spent on contracts with local firms.

But Burrelton and District Community Council want another public meeting so residents can hear opposing views. The move is supported by Scone and District Community Council, the latest group to become embroiled in the debate.

SDCC chairman Dr Peter Olsen said the anti-windfarm alliance Scotland Against Spin (SAS) should be allowed to present its views on the potential impact at any future public meeting.

He alleged yesterday: “We want Banks to come and listen to what other groups have to say, but the answer to that was no, because they said they don’t find those sort of confrontations useful.”

And he said SDCC could not afford to match Banks’ spending on publicity for such an event, as they would need to send out around 4500 flyers in order to invite every Scone resident.

“To give a leaflet to every single person in Scone would empty our coffers and then some,” he added. “We’re up against people with almost unlimited budgets when it comes to putting information out there.”

Dr Olsen also raised fresh concerns over the farm’s potential environmental impact.

“We’re not happy with the way Banks have implied everything is just hunky dory,” he said.

“They have not carried out environmental impact assessments to our satisfaction. We have a problem with the Annaty burn – it’s eroding the banks down by the edge of the village and there’s been a collapse.

“The source of the burn is where they’re going to put these turbines. Tonnes and tonnes of concrete will be going into the ground to make the bases.

“We don’t know what the impact will be on the Annaty burn – whether it will increase the flow or stop it altogether or what.”

Alison Ramsay from Inchture Community Council also expressed her concern the public were only hearing one view.

“At the moment, all people are getting is Banks’ views on this,” she blasted. “They [Banks] said they were going to give money to the community councils to send out our own flyers so we could try and gauge local opinion.

“But they seem to have gone back on that. They won’t fund flyers where there’s going to be a public meeting with speakers other than Banks.”

SAS spokeswoman Linda Holt, who spoke at a recent meeting of Scone Community Council, said: “We were really disappointed that no–one from Banks was there to argue their case.

“Individuals employed by government-sponsored organisations to promote wind energy were also invited to put their case but were unable to find time to come to Scone.

“All the public near to a proposed wind farm ever hear is the developer’s side of the story so it was good to be able to redress the balance. ”

Banks development director Colin Anderson replied yesterday: “We discussed how best to gain an understanding of the views of the local communities as a whole, rather than hearing only from those who were motivated enough to attend exhibitions or other events.

“Options considered by the community councils have included holding a public meeting, asking people to submit survey forms and undertaking an independent telephone survey.

“At this time, the community councils are still considering these options and Banks Renewables remains committed to helping them to gather opinions however they choose to do this, and we will help to provide funding should they require this.

“We have, however, confirmed that we will not attend a public debate about wind energy and Scotland’s energy policy, attended by national action groups and other ‘interested parties’.

“On projects such as Bandirran windfarm, we’re committed to listening to local people about the issues that matter to them and to discussing the actual impacts and benefits of the specific project being proposed with people in the area.

“To this end we are organising a series of public workshops to explain the detail of the finalised scheme. These will give local people a further opportunity to ask questions directly to the project design team and will enable us to obtain more community feedback on the proposals.

“It is also likely that an independent community survey will be carried out, as this appears to be generally supported and recognised as a good measure of public opinion.

“We are in the process of agreeing questions to be used in this survey with the community councils and intend to instruct an independent survey company to carry this out after submission of the planning application.”