Auchintirrie wind plans ‘being wound up’

The Auchintirrie site.
The Auchintirrie site.

The team behind the Auchintirrie Wind Project have announced the project is to be ‘wound up’

The move was confirmed by Bute Community Power directors Jim Osborne, Reeni Kennedy-Boyle, and Mick Common.

It follows a meeting held last week.

In a statement they said: “Following a General Meeting of our members on June 20 the Directors of Bute Community Power regrettably have to announce that a decision has been taken to wind up the Auchintirrie wind project and to apply for a write off of the CARES loan which has funded the development of the project up to this stage.

“We cannot proceed further with the project as it has not been possible to conclude a lease agreement for the site at Auchintirrie Farm.

“Following an intervention by Mount Stuart Trust, asserting their mineral rights at the proposed site, the owner of Auchintirrie Farm has decided to withdraw from negotiations about the terms for leasing of the site.

“The planning application for the project was lodged and made public in late April 2015, and the Mount Stuart Trust’s solicitors submitted an objection to the planning process on May 22, 2015, without making any reference to the Trust’s mineral rights. Representatives of the Trust attended the public hearing on September 22, 2015 at which the planning committee rejected the application on a casting vote. BCP appealed that decision and on March 23, 2016, it was announced that the appeal had been upheld. The Mount Stuart Trust’s solicitors first raised the mineral rights issue the next day in a letter dated March 24, 2016.

“It is regrettable that the Mount Stuart Trust, despite knowing about the Auchintirrie project for at least a year, waited until after BCP’s successful planning appeal before asserting their mineral rights.

“These issues could have been raised at a much earlier stage.”

The statement continued: “If the Trust had raised these concerns earlier, the issues may have been resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties in time for the project to proceed. Or, in the event of resolution being impossible, the project could have been abandoned earlier, avoiding unnecessary expenditure of BCP volunteer time and public money. As it is, £80,000 of public money has been lost, in the form of a loan to BCP from Community and Renewable Energy Scotland, which must now be written off.

“Despite this setback Bute Community Power has made considerable progress since its formation in November 2013. The membership now stands at a 126 local people and although the members and the Board of Directors are all unpaid volunteers we have gained valuable experience and understanding of the challenges and complexities of developing community owed renewable projects.

The problems affecting the local community which motivated the inception of BCP are still evident. Although many other positive actions are now being taken on Bute, community ownership of productive assets and an ability to generate our own shared wealth still has an important role to play in transforming the fortunes of the Bute community.

“BCP will now be seeking to identify further options to deliver our objective of benefitting the community through renewable energy. There are other renewable energy technologies that can be considered and other business models which are not dependent upon the export of power to the national grid. We will also be looking at what other communities are doing elsewhere in order to explore which future projects will be best suited to meet the needs of Bute and be able to deliver benefits for the community.”

In response, Adam Ellis-Jones, operations director of the Mount Stuart Trust, said its position hadn’t changed.

He said : “Our position hasn’t changed; the Trust had no intention to thwart this development after the planning appeal was granted. Our position has always been in line with the majority of people who objected to the application along with the Community Council and Argyll and Bute Council. Whilst we did not agree 47 metre high turbines were appropriate for Bute, we respected the final decision of the Scottish Government.

“The Mount Stuart Trust fully rejects the notion we have put any public money at risk. We are currently making significant investment in developments across the island to improve tourism and economic growth. As a result we are required to undertake significant due diligence and feasibility work from the outset. As previously stated the letter sent regarding mineral rights was to ensure all matters were dealt with properly before the project went ahead. It is unfortunate that BCP feels the need to try and apportion blame.

“The Mount Stuart Trust believes the island’s beautiful landscape is what will ultimately deliver the economic benefit we all seek for the community. Development must be genuinely sustainable – socially, environmentally and economically.

“We remain happy to consider new additional schemes from BCP or other community groups with innovative new ideas that can deliver for the environment and community without harming the island’s fragile tourist industry.”