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North-east peer re-launches windfarm plans after breaching conduct rules  

Credit:  By Calum Ross | The Press and Journal | 3 September 2014 | www.pressandjournal.co.uk ~~

Lord Nicol Stephen is resurrecting controversial plans to build a windfarm in Aberdeenshire – just months after he was ruled to have breached parliamentary conduct rules over his green energy interests.

The former deputy first minister has launched a fifth attempt to erect turbines near Blackhills Farm at Cushnie.

His firm Renewable Energy Ventures (REV) has asked for a review of the local authority’s decision to reject his application for planning permission.

The move emerged yesterday as the Press and Journal learned that Lord Stephen has been investigated by the House of Lords conduct committee over his register of interests.

Standards Commissioner Paul Kernaghann found that the former Liberal Democrat MSP for Aberdeen South had breached the code by failing to register all of his directorships of renewables firms.

The inquiry dismissed two of three complaints by north-east resident Jeff van Weereld, and said the breach was “minor” and due to “mistaken interpretation” of the rules.

Lord Stephen – who has since apologised and updated his register of interest – helped set up REV after his retirement from Holyrood.

Aberdeenshire Council officers have twice had to send planning applications for the Cushnie scheme back to REV because of “factual inaccuracies” in environmental statements.

A third application was blocked by the local authority in 2012, and a fourth bid to erect two 325ft masts was dismissed in May this year amid fears about the impact on the local area.

The Stop Turbines in Cushnie (Stic) group was established when the plans were first unveiled in 2011, and a total of 336 objectors opposed the last application.

However, REV has now moved to appeal against the refusal.

Stic chairwoman, Linda van Weereld, said: “Given the huge number of objections, it’s very disappointing that Lord Nicol Stephen didn’t take this into account when making an appeal.

“The Stic think that the council made the right decision in refusing the application.

“We hope that the local review board will also see the wisdom of the planning department.

“It is very difficult for all the people who objected to face another round.”

Lord Stephen told the Press and Journal: “This is not an appeal to the Scottish Government reporters unit, but rather a request for a review of the case by Aberdeenshire Council.

“The company that I am a director of has decided to ask local councillors to review the decision, as any applicant is entitled to do.”

On the conduct ruling, the peer said: “I fully accepted the findings of the report and apologised for registering only my paid directorships.

“I am pleased that as a result of my misunderstanding, the guide to the code has now been amended to clarify the position.

“I take these matters seriously and have always declared my business interest in renewable energy, which is well known and often referred to in the media.”

Source:  By Calum Ross | The Press and Journal | 3 September 2014 | www.pressandjournal.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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