by Paul Cargill

There is growing concern among community groups that a “one-sided argument”
is being presented in favour of a Perthshire wind farm bid.

Banks Renewables held public exhibitions in Inchture and Balbeggie last
month to promote its plans to build six 132m-high turbines on the Bandirran
Estate near Balbeggie.

The company has stated that surrounding communities stand to earn around
£168,000 per year from the proposed Carse of Gowrie windfarm, and that up
to 20% of the £26 million construction costs would be spent on contracts
with local firms.

But Burrelton and District Community Council want another public meeting so
residents can hear opposing views. The move is supported by Scone and
District Community Council, the latest group to become embroiled in the debate.

SDCC chairman Dr Peter Olsen said the anti-windfarm alliance Scotland
Against Spin (SAS) should be allowed to present its views on the potential
impact at any future public meeting.

He alleged yesterday: “We want Banks to come and listen to what other
groups have to say, but the answer to that was no, because they said they
don’t find those sort of confrontations useful.”

And he said SDCC could not afford to match Banks’ spending on publicity for
such an event, as they would need to send out around 4500 flyers in order
to invite every Scone resident.

“To give a leaflet to every single person in Scone would empty our coffers
and then some,” he added. “We’re up against people with almost unlimited
budgets when it comes to putting information out there.”

Dr Olsen also raised fresh concerns over the farm’s potential environmental
impact.

“We’re not happy with the way Banks have implied everything is just hunky
dory,” he said.

“They have not carried out environmental impact assessments to our
satisfaction. We have a problem with the Annaty burn – it’s eroding the
banks down by the edge of the village and there’s been a collapse.

“The source of the burn is where they’re going to put these turbines.
Tonnes and tonnes of concrete will be going into the ground to make the bases.

“We don’t know what the impact will be on the Annaty burn – whether it will
increase the flow or stop it altogether or what.”

Alison Ramsay from Inchture Community Council also expressed her concern
the public were only hearing one view.

“At the moment, all people are getting is Banks’ views on this,” she
blasted. “They [Banks] said they were going to give money to the community
councils to send out our own flyers so we could try and gauge local opinion.

“But they seem to have gone back on that. They won’t fund flyers where
there’s going to be a public meeting with speakers other than Banks.”

SAS spokeswoman Linda Holt, who spoke at a recent meeting of Scone
Community Council, said: “We were really disappointed that no–one from
Banks was there to argue their case.

“Individuals employed by government-sponsored organisations to promote wind
energy were also invited to put their case but were unable to find time to
come to Scone.

“All the public near to a proposed wind farm ever hear is the developer’s
side of the story so it was good to be able to redress the balance. ”

Banks development director Colin Anderson replied yesterday: “We discussed
how best to gain an understanding of the views of the local communities as
a whole, rather than hearing only from those who were motivated enough to
attend exhibitions or other events.

“Options considered by the community councils have included holding a
public meeting, asking people to submit survey forms and undertaking an
independent telephone survey.

“At this time, the community councils are still considering these options
and Banks Renewables remains committed to helping them to gather opinions
however they choose to do this, and we will help to provide funding should
they require this.

“We have, however, confirmed that we will not attend a public debate about
wind energy and Scotland’s energy policy, attended by national action
groups and other ‘interested parties’.

“On projects such as Bandirran windfarm, we’re committed to listening to
local people about the issues that matter to them and to discussing the
actual impacts and benefits of the specific project being proposed with
people in the area.

“To this end we are organising a series of public workshops to explain the
detail of the finalised scheme. These will give local people a further
opportunity to ask questions directly to the project design team and will
enable us to obtain more community feedback on the proposals.

“It is also likely that an independent community survey will be carried
out, as this appears to be generally supported and recognised as a good
measure of public opinion.

“We are in the process of agreeing questions to be used in this survey with
the community councils and intend to instruct an independent survey company
to carry this out after submission of the planning application.”


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