A wind farm company worth £7.7million paid an elderly widow just £500 for land essential to a 20-turbine development in the Highlands.
North British Windpower made the deal in 2008 when one of the firm’s directors visited Marie Greenaway, 84, at her tumbledown cottage in Errogie, Inverness-shire.
The developers needed her front garden to allow improvements to the main road leading to the controversial Corriegarth wind farm scheme, in the Monadhliath Mountains.
As well as the £500 cash payment, Mrs Greenaway was also given a subscription to literary magazine Granta – worth about £32 a year.
It is understood the deal was agreed with Graham Irwin, a company director with the Kirkcaldy-based energy firm.
Mrs Greenaway said: “He gave me some money. It wasn’t very much but it wasn’t very much land either. It was about 400 or 500 quid. Then he sort of disappeared and I started getting Granta.”
Title deeds held by the Registers of Scotland confirm that North British Windpower bought the land for £500 on November 29, 2008.
At the time of the sale, Mrs Greenaway – who survived the London Blitz – lived mainly in the kitchen of the near-derelict house, washed her clothes in the bath and ate only microwave meals.
Fiercely independent, for many years she refused to move from the home she had shared with her husband despite suffering from a chronic lung complaint made worse by her living conditions.
However, around a year after selling the parcel of land she was finally forced to move away from Errogie to a care home in Inverness. She said: “My doctor said living there was killing me.”
Mrs Greenaway added that her lawyer dealt with the matter after Mr Irwin’s visit. The magazine still arrives every three months.
The land is around 150 square metres and sits on the corner of the B862 at Errogie junction. It is to be bulldozed to allow lorries carrying the turbines to pass through the village safely.
In 2012 North British Windpower reported a net worth of £7,676,453. The company also developed the 48-turbine Fallago Rig wind farm in Berwickshire, which generated £30million last year for current owners EDF Energy.
Despite objections, the Corriegarth scheme was approved in 2010 and work will begin this year, with plans for an extension already submitted to SNP ministers. With a total capacity of 70MW, it could be expected to generate around £14million a year.
Mrs Greenaway said she thought Mr Irwin gave her what the land was worth, but that it was probably worth much more to him than it was to her.
She said: “I was so used to living without money that it didn’t make any difference. I wasn’t bothered.”
Last night, anti-renewables pressure groups condemned the deal. Linda Holt of Scotland Against Spin said: “These developers lie, swindle and try to pay communities as little as possible. I’m not at all surprised.
“The Scottish Government is favouring greedy speculative developers over its own citizens”.
In March 2013, community council members for the area challenged Mr Irwin about his deal with Mrs Greenaway. Minutes from the meeting record him as making no comment.
The Sunday Express contacted Andrew Shaw, managing director for North British Windpower this week. He refused to comment on the deal.
Mr Irwin also represented the company in recent negotiations for community benefit payments for Errogie and the surrounding area.
In January this year the sum awarded for the Corriegarth development was £2,500 per kilowatt of energy – half of Highland Council’s recommended rate. No legislation exists to enforce it.
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