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Energy company criticised over use of ‘incognito security guards’ at consultation events 

Credit:  24 Apr 2024 | Martin Shipton | nation.cymru ~~

An opponent of plans to build a network of pylons across mid Wales has expressed concern that the firm behind the project has hired ex-military personnel to monitor public consultation meetings incognito.

Dr Chris Langley has attended meetings in Llandeilo and Llandovery hosted by GreenGen Cymru, which has the same ownership as Bute Energy, which wants to build a parallel network of wind farms.

‘Agitated’

He said: “GreenGen Cymru is holding a series of consultation events about its route of pylons running through the Towy Valley. Like their last round of consultation in 2023, these events consist of a few tabletop maps of the route, some banners with information about the company and people representing the project.

“There are people at these meetings wearing GreenGen Cymru badges. There are also, however, a few curious figures one might not immediately notice at these meetings.

“At the meeting in Llandeilo, my partner and I were becoming agitated by a member of the GreenGen Cymru team. A man in a tweed jacket approached us and in a gentle manner tried to calm us down. He then took my partner to one side and started talking to her in a patronising manner, at one point asking her how old she was. I heard similar reports from other visitors.

“We asked who he was and he told us that he was ‘a sort of health and safety consultant’ from Herefordshire. He gave us his name as John Ashworth. I looked up some information about John. He is the managing director of a company called Conquest Consultations and Security Services.

“On John’s website, he has a testimonial from Camargue, a firm that manages corporate reputations and which is linked with GreenGen Cymru and Copper Consultancy, the latter being the company GreenGen uses to manage the events. His website tells us that John was a Sergeant Major in the British Army. Between 2005 and 2008, he worked for BritAm Defence in Iraq, a private defence contractor. There was at least one colleague along with John in Llandeilo. John’s website boasts that his colleagues are all ‘ex-military’ personnel.

“These individuals are totally unmarked, have dressed deliberately to blend into the crowd, and are never acknowledged by the other staff at the consultation meetings. Indeed, John’s website tells us how he and his colleagues offer a full range of ‘discreet’ security services. GreenGen has a right to be secure in our communities, but they should disclose to visitors the presence of former military personnel at these consultation meetings.

“I saw these individuals again in Llandovery, I questioned the GreenGen staff asking why these men were not clearly marked and why they were passing for members of the public. They said that they were health and safety consultants, unmarked because they didn’t represent the project or work for GreenGen. When I told the staff that they were not the only consultants at the event, but that all others were marked, they had no response. Apparently, GreenGen’s head of marketing has been working with John for 15 years; when I asked if this was just after John had come out of Iraq she said she had no idea if he had been in the military. This was deliberately disingenuous: John’s website proudly states that he and all his staff are former military personnel.

“I took a picture of the room in Llandovery: the two figures in the middle of the frame are security personnel – you can match up the one individual with the photo on their website.

“I am no impartial observer. I reject GreenGen’s proposals and do not like how they have treated the people of our community. However, knowing that these people are present at these meetings makes me worry that I cannot be as candid as I might like at these consultation events as my safety might be in jeopardy. It also feels deeply duplicitous for GreenGen to come into our community with highly-trained, professional minders and then not telling us. If these feel like bully-boy tactics by GreenGen, then perhaps you should trust your instincts.”

Respected

A spokesperson for GreenGen Cymru said: “Conquest is a respected firm that is appointed to manage logistics and safety for events and similar consultations across the country. They employ a variety of people who are often retired service personnel/veterans. Conquest in no way hampers free and open conversation in the consultation.

“Due to the level of interest in the project we anticipated that a significant number of people would attend the recent consultation event. On this day, the number of attendees was nearly 600.

“GreenGen Cymru believes it is important to have a team to manage safety during the event, carrying out functions such as ensuring that numbers in the room remain within the capacity of the venue, managing queueing and ensuring that everyone is safe at the event. Conquest provides a trained first aider for the benefit of everyone attending the events.

“Conquest staff do not wear badges at consultation events as they are not working as part of the project team and cannot answer questions about the project from the public. Other consultants at the events were specialists who had worked on the project and were able to answer a wide variety of questions about the project.

“We are glad to have welcomed so many people to our recent consultation events to give us their views on the project. We would encourage people to provide additional feedback to help us improve the design of the project. This round of consultation on the project will run between March 13 and May 8 2024.”

Source:  24 Apr 2024 | Martin Shipton | nation.cymru

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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