Scotland’s biggest landowner has been accused of resorting to “bribes” in a desperate bid to push through a controversial windfarm scheme.
Opponents of the Duke of Buccleuch’s proposed 42-turbine development hit out after residents living in the shadow of the earmarked site were told they would benefit from almost £19million in “community funding” if the project is approved.
The North Lowther Energy Initiative (NLEI) – a partnership between the land-owning family’s business arm, Buccleuch, and developer 2020 Renewables – is planning to build the massive windfarm in the Lowther Hills between Sanquhar and Wanlockhead in Dumfries-shire.
The Scottish Government is currently considering a scoping report by NLEI’s project team, with a formal planning application expected early next year.
However, local people have already raised concerns about the effect the proposed development will have on the surrounding area.
But in an apparent attempt to appease opponents, NLEI this week announced that, if approved, local communities could receive an annual payment of £5,000 per megawatt for the lifetime of the facility. It said that would equate to around £750,000 a year – or £18,750,000 over 25 years.
But last night Graham Lang, of anti-windfarm group Scotland Against Spin, said: “You cannot buy the amenity that people in Leadhills and Wanlockhead will surrender if this development goes ahead.
“Developers always play the community benefit card early in the hope of getting some good publicity.
“It will be short lived when the realities of the scale of the development and its adverse impacts begin to emerge.”
And Lyndsey Ward, who has fought several windfarm developments in the Highlands, added: “It really is outrageous and it is a bribe.
“There should be nothing offered, in our opinion, before any planning approval.
“If it’s approved then it has to be labelled what it is – and that’s compensation.”
The scheme was first announced in April last year, with 140 turbines initially earmarked for the site, but it has since undergone several design revisions.
Scotland Against Spin has vehemently opposed the plans – pointing out the surrounding area is already “saturated” with hundreds of the gigantic eyesores.
The fundings was announced on Tuesday with NLEI saying it was consulting with the community councils of Wanlockhead, Sanquhar, Leadhills, Kirkconnel and Kelloholm and Duneaton, which includes the village of Crawfordjohn.
It said it wanted people’s views on their “long term aspirations for the area” and “how the positive economic impact of the scheme could help”.
John Glen, chief executive officer of Buccleuch said: “The potential for this money to help local communities to achieve their ambitions for development, promotion and sustainability is enormous.”
But Androulla Richford, of Wanlockhead Community Council, said: “They are very creative and put a spin on their press releases.”
NLEI, which will hold a public consultation on its plans next month, refused to comment on the campaigners’ comments.
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