The Scottish Tories’ Environment spokesman is in line to make £8 million from a controversial wind farm on his Highland estate thanks to a new planning appeal, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
Sir Jamie McGrigor appeared to have missed out on the fortune when Argyll and Bute councillors unanimously refused plans for a 45-megawatt wind farm on his Ardchonnel estate in May.
But developer RWE Innogy last week lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government, angering many of McGrigor’s constituents.
Residents of the nearby village of Dalavich, who fear the wind farm could cost tourism jobs, have set up a legal fund to fight the proposal.
Irene McClounnan, secretary of Dalavich Social Club, said: “We’re disgusted. We are absolutely fed up. The whole village is of the same view. It’s our livelihood and he just doesn’t give a damn.”
Dozens of local people objected to the plan after RWE first sought planning permission for it last year, warning it would ruin the skyline, damage tourism and “rip the heart out of the community”.
The country’s environment watchdog, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), also warned the wind farm was out of scale with its surroundings and would have significant adverse impacts on the landscape “for residents and visitors alike”.
If RWE’s appeal succeeds, Ardchonnel would be one of the biggest wind farms in the region.
The plan is to erect 15 turbines, each up to 111m – 364ft – tall, the height of seven double-decker buses, which could generate enough electricity for 40% of the homes in Argyle and Bute.
McGrigor, 64, is an Old Etonian baronet and a Tory list MSP for the Highlands and Islands. He says the wind farm is in a suitable area and would provide valuable local jobs.
In 2008, he signed a parliamentary motion demanding rules on wind farms be imposed to end “speculative applications … threatening scenic areas”.
Three years later he struck a lucrative deal with RWE to build on part of his 3500-acre estate currently used for sheep grazing.
According to the agreement, which has been seen by the Sunday Herald, McGrigor would receive £7000 a year “base rent” for each megawatt of installed capacity, meaning £315,000 a year for the 45MW which is planned, plus extra cash if the wind farm generates above expectation.
Index-linked over the 25-year lifetime of the turbines, the income ought to top £8m.
In its appeal to Scottish ministers, RWE argues Argyll and Bute was wrong to refuse planning permission on the “very narrowly focused” grounds of impact on the local landscape.
The impacts would be “highly limited”, “acceptable” and would not affect the most dramatic views in and around Loch Awe, the German energy giant says.
It also claims there is no evidence to support fears about the tourist trade, and accuses SNH of using “emotive language” about the proposal.
An RWE Innogy UK spokeswoman confirmed that after the Argyll and Bute planning decision on the Ardchonnel wind farm, RWE Innogy UK has now decided to lodge an appeal.
She added: “We feel we have a viable scheme and we have now submitted our case to be considered through the appeal process.”
Contacted for comment, McGrigor supplied the same statement as RWE Innogy.
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