THE company behind the proposed Black Craig wind farm opposite Roth-esay Bay will donate £64,000 a year towards community projects on Bute if their scheme is given planning permission.
Argyll Windfarms plans to set up a 'community benefit' fund of 160,000 a year over the 25-year lifespan of the Black Craig turbines - if Scottish ministers decide to reverse Argyll and Bute Council's decision to refuse permission for the project.
Bute Community Council was told the benefit fund would be split between Bute and South Cowal and ALIenergy, a public agency providing advice on energy use, with a trust set up to administer the money during the wind farm's lifetime.
That would leave Bute in line for a cash injection of 1.6 million during the turbines' life.
Argyll Windfarms director Mungo Tulloch told BCC members at a special meeting in Rothesay this week that the funds would be intended for youth programmes, renewable energy schemes or projects which would boost tourism on the island.
"Community benefit is a very difficult issue from the developer's point of view," Mr Tulloch admitted.
"If we don't offer it, then people say we are reaping all the benefits, and if we do, they say we are trying to buy them over. In this particular instance, it has been offered because we feel it is due."
The total community benefit is equivalent to 5,000 a year for each megawatt of electricity which would be generated by the wind farm's 16 turbines.
"This proposed rate per megawatt is approximately double what has been put in place to date by other developers in Argyll," Mr Tulloch told the meeting, "and reflects our strong relationship with the local area."
The sum donated could be subject to change if the number of turbines is reduced.
By comparison, a similar wind farm trust in nearby Glendaruel administers an annual 'community trust fund' of 21,000 from Scottish Power, operators of the 35-turbine wind farm at Cruach Mhor, high above the village.
Bute Community Council's treasurer, Ian Hopkins, questioned Mr Tulloch on the developer's obligation to donate the stated amount each year.
Mr Tulloch assured him the 64,000 was ring-fenced and would be guaranteed once the appropriate legal documents were signed.
"It is a voluntary contribution by us," he said, "but we will be legally bound, so we can't walk away from it."
A separate group, the Black Craig Windfarm Trust Fund Board, would be set up to administer the community benefit funds to the appropriate parties, and would provide annual scruinty of what the money was spent on.
"There is little doubt in my mind that this money could benefit the community," said BCC member Bill McQueen.
"But it's not going to change dramatically the opinion of those who object to it on terms of environmental issues, visual impact and its effect on tourism."
Scottish ministers are presently considering the views of independent reporter Karen Heywood, who presided at a public inquiry into the Black Craig plans at Colintraive village hall in April; a decision is expected within the next two months.
Ministers have already rejected proposals for a 14-turbine wind farm on Corlarach, also on the Cowal peninsula, on the grounds of adverse visual and environmental impact.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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