An energy firm say they will spend £1.5 million restoring a disused opencast site – if they get planning permission to build a wind farm there.
But Peel Energy’s ‘innovative package’ to mend the Grievehill mine, near New Cumnock, has been criticised by the local community council, who claim locals will be the ones again missing out.
The English-based firm have applied to create the six-turbine Garleffan Wind Farm, reduced from nine, which sits on the Grievehill site.
They have agreed to pick up a restoration bill AND continue with their offer to let communities invest in a share in the site.
But New Cumnock Community Council are angry they haven’t been consulted and say the ‘offer’ is little more than a token gesture,
Instead of donating £500,000 to East Ayrshire Council’s Central Renewable Fund – which is used to help areas affected by energy industries – Peel will use that money to pay for restoration.
A source close to the firm said: “The £500,000 would have gone into the Council’s central pot but this way residents know the money is being spent on New Cumnock and sorting out this mess. The other million will come from savings and they hope to strike a rental deal with the owners of the site Hargreaves.
“Peel believe they are coming up with a solution to a problem that wasn’t of their, or the community’s, making.”
A community council spokesperson said: “It is the understanding of New Cumnock Community Council that the funds being offered by Peel Energy to EAC will be as a contribution towards restoration of Garleffan Opencast and will be instead of the usual community benefit.
“This effectively means that the wind industry is subsidising the mess left behind by the coal industry and the communities are being forced to swap one industrial development for another with no prospect of any community benefit.
“Whatever happened to ‘the polluter must pay rule?’ Whilst EAC claim they are not liable for the current opencast debacle, they are ultimately responsible. It seems perverse that EAC could be allowed to raid the communities’ benefit fund to repair land that belongs to private companies and individuals.
“What about some community consultation on this?”
Peel say the continued offer of the opportunity for communities directly involved, to become part owners of the scheme, remains the same and the offer on the table is currently half a turbine.
Peel will argue that by offering £1.5m for mine restoration the residents of New Cumnock will know exactly where their money is going. Under the Central Renewable Fund scheme, East Ayrshire Council take the cash – money generated per kilowatt of energy produced – and can spend it on any area within a 10km radius of said site.
Jonathan England, Development Director, Peel Energy Limited said: “We have responded to the useful comments made in response to our original application, and the helpful input from the local communities during the consultation events in reducing the scheme to six turbines. This means that the scheme is less visible and further away from local communities.
“In addition we have responded to the collapse of the opencast mine operators to ensure that restoration of the site in a safe and environmentally sensitive way can be secured.”
Council planners will make their decision when the application is heard next month.
• Peel Energy will be holding community drop-in events next week to allow locals learn more about the Garleffan proposals.
On Monday September 8 they will be in Netherthird Community Centre from 2pm to 4pm.
On the same day, they will be in New Cumnock Community Centre from 6pm to 8pm.
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