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Wind farm f irm tried to buy me off, says objector

A woman has accused an energy firm of trying to buy her silence over plans to build eight wind turbines, almost as high as the Forth Road Bridge, less than half a mile from her home.

Suzanne Darroch said that Cheshire-based Community Windpower Ltd (CWL) offered her £2,500 a year in a secret deal that would mean dropping her objection to the plan and not telling anyone about the cash.

CWL’s initial application for the Hill Rig wind farm, near Carluke, was rejected by South Lanarkshire Council in December.

But it has now relaunched a proposal for eight turbines of up to 426ft – almost as high as the 511ft Forth Road Bridge.

Property owner Mrs Darroch, 58, said: ‘The strategy used by this company is akin to offering hush money and a lot of people will be shocked to learn tactics like this are used. The effect on the landscape, not to mention wildlife here, will be utterly appalling.’

Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said: ‘Under the SNP we have seen far too many wind farms producing expensive, unreliable and intermittent energy. The conduct of some developers, amounting to little more than bribes to not object, is highly questionable.’ After the initial application by CWL was rejected, a ‘proposal of application’ notice was lodged again on January 7.

A letter from the firm to Mrs Darroch sets out a proposed ‘energy agreement’, which she has rejected.

It says: ‘The Householder shall render all reasonable assistance to the Company in support of an Application provided the Company keeps the Householder free of all expenses in this regard and the Householder shall not object or assist any other party in objecting to an Application.’

An annual sum of £2,500 is promised but the letter makes clear that the ‘Householder shall not disclose to any party except as may be required by law, the contents of this Agreement.’

One picture on CWL’s Facebook site shows the firm’s owners, Rod and Diane Wood, with former First Minister Alex Salmond at an SNP dinner.

Farmer Peter Struthers owns most of the land where the development would be sited.

The 57-year- old, whose family has run 600-acre Greenbank Farm since 1965, said he backed the scheme because of the proposed benefits to the community.

‘The visual impact will not be as great as some people are making out because the turbines will sit in a hollow,’ he said.

‘The firm will give money to the local community, for amenities and so on, of around £150,000 a year.’

CWL did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

On its website, the firm, based in Frodsham, Cheshire, says: ‘Our “Buy Scottish” policy is… a crucial component of all of our projects as we maintain our commitment to Scotland and its green energy industry.’ The company claimed it was ‘set to invest over £ 1billion into the Scottish economy’.

A South Lanarkshire Council spokesman said: ‘This was submitted on January 7, 2015, and the earliest date the planning application can be lodged for this proposal would be April 1, 2015.

‘Until this planning application is lodged, the council cannot confirm what the applicant has altered in respect of this fresh proposal.’