Nearly 100 villagers voted unanimously at a packed public meeting to oppose on-shore wind turbines.
But the move came after it emerged that the company behind a proposed wind farm and wind turbine manufacturing plant in Jurby had now abandoned its plans for five 150m high turbines at the airfield site and was now exploring options for solar power instead.
In a letter to Tynald members, Prowind managing director Keith Brooks said that following ‘vastly incorrect representation’ of his company in the House of Keys this week, he had no option but to seek an alternative location in the UK for the venture.
And as a ‘gesture towards repairing the damage caused’ to the company’s reputation he suggested that Prowind should receive compensation – a refund of its £120,000 investment costs plus an offer to set the planning fees for both the solar park and industrial unit at £1 each which he said would give ‘sufficient confidence to resume a situation here’.
Michael MHK Alfred Cannan, who called the public meeting at Jurby parish hall, described the situation as ‘a shambles and a joke’.
But he added: ‘It is actually very serious. There is a lot of anger at the way this has been handled. It was presented as a fait accompli and raised temperatures among landowners and residents. I took a vote which was a unanimous “No to wind turbines”.’
In the House of Keys, Economic Development Minister John Shimmin accused Prowind UK of raising false expectations among job seekers who attended a three-day jobs fair organised by the company on behalf of US wind turbine manufacturer Xseres.
Some 70 applicants each day had been due to attend interviews at the Job Centre in Douglas for jobs ranging from office admin and packaging to manufacturing and delivery drivers. They were told the unit would be opened in March or April next year and successful applicants would be offered a start date at the end of November.
Mr Shimmin told MHKs that at a meeting on Friday, Prowind had been told wind turbines could not be erected at Jurby airfield as the site was safeguarded for emergency landings and future aviation use.
He said no formal agreement had been reached with government and the company would need full planning consent before going ahead.
The Minister said: ‘I believe the company made a mistake by approaching the Job Centre and advertising 100 jobs which indicated they were further progressed than this actual business plan is.
‘I would like to make it clear that I’m very interested in talking to Prowind UK. However, the airfield at Jurby will not have the turbines that have been proposed. Prowind may walk away from that area.’
Prowind managing director Keith Brooks, who outlined the firm’s plans at Jurby parish hall on Saturday, claimed the public were ‘extremely supportive’ of both wind and solar power.
Speaking at the jobs fair, he told the Manx Independent that three of the five planned turbines would have been in the way of airfield operations. He said: ‘My current thinking is we don’t need to have turbines on the site. It was always an option to go solely solar. After a second viewing in my opinion a revision to solely solar would be more suitable.’
Mr Brooks said Prowind UK has asked for Andreas Racing Association’s assistance in designing a layout that would allow the safe operation of its activities.
He said: ‘As a company we strive to create local benefit. In the case of Jurby this would be assisting Xseres with all preliminary work which has included initial staff evaluation to determine the existing skills set.’
In the Keys, the Economic Development Minister accused Mr Cannan of undermining the island’s message that it was open for business after the Michael MHK claimed Prowind UK had assets of only £7,000, made a loss of £96,000 and has creditors of more than £165,000.
Questioned about the figures, Mr Brooks told the Independent that the £96,000 was a ‘declared loss for accountancy’.
He added: ‘I’m in charge of the finances of the company and to the best of my knowledge there are no outstanding creditors. There is nothing to hide. Prowind UK is the UK arm of a multi-national company. We are funded directly by the parent company.’
In the Keys, Chief Minister Allan Bell accused MHKs of ‘jumping the gun’ on Prowind’s proposals as no firm proposition had been put forward.’
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