Peebles could benefit from a £500,000 community benefit package if two controversial wind farms are given the go-ahead, according to a community council member.
Malcolm Bruce entered into talks with development managers regarding the community funding that will be generated from the proposed wind power sites at Scawd Law near Walkerburn and Cloich Forest near Eddleston.
In a bid to make sure all communities can benefit from any potential financial windfall, Mr Bruce reached out to six community councils in Peeblesshire.
However, the Peebles community councillor, who was recently co-opted onto the body, says he did not receive the response he had hoped for – with both Manor and Eddleston reiterating their objection to the plans at Cloich. The proposal prompted a community protest in 2016.
Notwithstanding the potential cash benefits, Mr Bruce said he was “at great pains” when emailing community councils to clarify that his interest was not about planning consideration.
He added: “It’s not about whether there should be a wind farm there or whether there shouldn’t, this is about putting ourselves in a position where we could potentially benefit from a wind farm if the planning process allows that to go ahead.”
And he claimed that one community council representative was badly informed.
“He [the community councillor] was trying to make a point that there was no promise of money anyway, because you would only ever see a pound in your bank when the turbines start turning, which is actually 100 per cent incorrect because any community benefit funding is based on installed capacity, not electricity generated – they are two completely different things.
“So if they’re installed [with] up to 50 megawatts potential then that’s the money a community benefit fund would get.
“We haven’t been able to progress Cloich at all, I’m afraid. I’ll have another go at contacting the other community councils. If we’re still not making progress we may have to consider going ahead ourselves.”
Mr Bruce attended the virtual public consultation for Scawd Law wind farm proposed on land north and east of Caberston, near Walkerburn.
“I signed into this and I had a chat with the Fred Olsen Renewable managers involved with that development. What I now have in writing is that Peebles will benefit from the community benefit fund that’s established for Scawd Law.
“We’re close enough that they fully intend us to benefit, and again, it’ll be a 50 megawatt wind farm when it’s fully developed and they will be creating a fund in the amount of £5,000 per installed megawatt capacity which is £250,000, the same as Cloich.”
Insisting that his views on the proposed wind farms were not coloured by the community cash benefits, Mr Bruce added: “There is a potential for two community benefit funds totalling half a million pounds a year being made available to the residents of Peebles.
“I think we should follow this with as much vigour as we can muster because it’s too good an opportunity to miss.
“If other community councils don’t want to come along the road with us, we may have to fight our own corner there. I stress again, it’s nothing to do with whether you like wind farms or whether you don’t, it’s all about being in a position to benefit from them if they happen.”
Mr Bruce said both EDF and Fred Olsen Renewables, both anticipate putting in planning application around spring time.
Tweeddale councillor Heather Anderson said there are “sensitivities” regarding the history of plans for the wind farm near Eddleston.
She said: “There have been campaigns against Cloich and the proposals were re-designed.
“For many of us living around here they’re worse. So yes, there’s sometimes community benefit money but the impact on the environment is also significant, and I’m saying that as someone who is completely pro-wind farms.”
Mr Bruce replied: “For me it’s not about whether the wind farm goes ahead or not, it’s about being in a position to benefit from any fund that comes along. That’s all I’m doing – I’m not commenting on the pluses or minuses for the wind farms themselves.”
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