Natural Power accuse Community Council of going back on their promise
A PUBLIC vote on the proposed wind farm at Crystal Rig caused uproar on Monday night after many of the large turn out protested at the shambolic way it was conducted.
Despite confusion about who was eligible to vote, the final tally revealed that most residents were not opposed to the wind farm. But the meeting's chairman, community councillor Darien Fraser, refused to accept some of the votes which had been cast earlier in the day.
Natural Power, the company behind the proposal, have now accused Longformacus and Cranshaws Community Council of going back on their promise to withdraw their objection if the majority of residents voted in favour of the application.
Project manager David Watson said: "The community council said if the vote went in favour of the wind farm they would withdraw their objection but Mr Fraser is ignoring the ballot - basically because it didn't go their way."
The public meeting had been called by community councillors to gauge local opinion after they were criticised for not accurately representing the views of villagers when they voted last week to recommend refusal of the wind farm. The final decision will be made by the development and control committee on Monday (September 10).
After a presentation by Natural Power and a lively question and answer session lasting over two hours, Mr Fraser asked for a show of hands 'for' or 'against' the wind farm. Those outside the Cranshaws and Longformacus Community Council area, despite living close to the proposed site, were not allowed to participate. Mr Fraser also banned anyone who had expressed their view anonymously in an earlier surgery organised by Councillor John Elliot because those opinions were to be 'taken into consideration' later. Mr Elliot had invited visitors to his surgery on Monday afternoon to write their view on a piece of paper which was posted into a sealed box.
The result of the show of hands was 17 for and 29 against the wind farm but when the papers in the sealed box were counted they revealed a further 32 people in favour and 11 against making a total of 49 for and 40 against.
But Mr Fraser said the views from the surgery didn't count provoking angry responses from several audience members who felt they had been gagged.
Ian Mackintosh who acted as secretary for the meeting said: "The meeting and the presentation were both fine but when it came to the vote it was a fiasco. The chairman was asked twice to clarify the position with the votes cast in the afternoon and he suggested that those who had voted then shouldn't vote again but at the end he turned around and said they didn't count."
Mr Mackintosh said he knew at least six people, both for and against the wind farm, who felt they had been cheated out of their vote.
Sam and Susan Drummond from Longformacus both support the wind farm and attended the afternoon surgery to have their say. Mr Drummond said: "We have three young children so it would have been difficult for us to go to the evening meeting. We went at lunchtime to cast our vote but now they're saying they won't accept it. That is ridiculous, they have taken our right to an opinion away from us"
Mr Fraser responded: "I said from the beginning that we wouldn't accept the views collected by Mr Elliot and only the show of hands would count. I accept that it was a mistake to say that people couldn't vote again but I think the result of the show of hands was still a fair representation of the community view. I have received further postal votes against the wind farm which were also not counted because those people were not present."
Earlier in the evening, Natural Power representatives responded to questions about the visual impact of the 28 turbine development which would be Scotland's largest wind farm.
Many of those who spoke out against the project were concerned about the cumulative effect generated by what would be the third wind farm within a 15km radius.
One said: "If Crystal Rig was the first then we'd probably support it but this is just one wind farm too far."
The company used charts showing the points at which the 99m turbines at Crystal Rig would be seen to back their claim that the visual impact of Crystal Rig would be considerably less than the existing wind farm at Soutra and the planned development at Black Hill which was approved in July.
Mr Watson said the company wanted to connect to the power line linking Torness and Dunbar at a point near Black Loch in East Lothian. Existing pylons would be used to transport power north from Crystal Rig and any additional line would use wooden poles. He said Natural Power was not aware of any plans by Renewable Energy Systems (RES Ltd), the developers of Black Hill, to link their site to Crystal Rig but that would require permission from the Scottish Executive and was nothing to do with Natural Power.
The preferred access route was also from the north and would be the subject of a separate application to East Lothian Council which was to be submitted tomorrow (Friday). An alternative route from the south had been included in the application to Scottish Borders Council as the planning committee would need to know of the company's intentions should the application to East Lothian Council be refused.
He added that over its lifetime the wind farm would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over two million tonnes, 25 times more than would be absorbed by the plantation forestry currently planted on the site.
Natural Power director Jeremy Sainsbury also told the meeting that the company would be a good neighbour and had an excellent reputation in terms of the contribution they had made to communities affected by their projects in the past. A community fund, in the region of 30,000 a year, would be shared between those communities close to Crystal Rig.