EXCLUSIVE: Cove wind farm project cancelled

The Cove Community Wind Farm project has been abandoned.

Promising millions of pounds for local causes, the hugely ambitious plan nevertheless proved highly contentious, with more than 2,500 people making comments for or against.

In the end though it was legal issues which forced the cancellation, with the Rosneath Peninsula West Community Development Trust saying landowners had not signed lease agreements, although two local farmers have released their own statement in response, raising a range of issues.

Trust convener Murdo MacDonald said: “It was with desperate sadness that we had to do this.

“People have said it is tragic because of all the work we have put in but that is not tragic – what is tragic is the loss of this opportunity for this community.”

Four directors of the trust have resigned in recent weeks, but Mr MacDonald said it was ‘simply untrue’ that they had all stepped down because of the wind farm issue.

First revealed here last October, the plan for five 92-metre turbines were expected to produce annual windfalls of more than £300,000 for villagers in Cove, Kilcreggan, Peaton, Ardpeaton and Portkil.

But Argyll and Bute councillors were recommended to refuse the plan at a discretionary local hearing on September 17, after opposition from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), MoD contractors Denbridge Marine and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

National politicians including MSPs Jackie Baillie and Patrick Harvie supported the plans, while opponents included MEP Struan Stevenson and celebrities Griff Rhys Jones and Rory McGrath.

For the full text of the trust’s statement click here.

For the full text of the statement issued by local farmers Abe Hamilton and John Auld click here.

23 Comments

  1. I am shocked that the Development Trust is so ready to besmirch two landowners who are so well respected in our Community and are members of families who have farmed on the Peninsula for generations. Surely common decency would have allowed for a right of reply in order to show fairness. The paucity of information and communications emanating from the Trust since the early meetings is deplorable and suggests a lack of professionalism. I hope that those residents having read the statement released by Abe and John will share my opinion and comment accordingly.

    It seems to have been an easy “out” to blame the landowners and I wonder whether the real reason is the inability to raise the required £15m +++ funding!!

  2. I am outraged!!

    This project began over three years ago and the Trust have spent some £250K of grants, all public money, plus wasted the time and money of A&B Council, SNH, the National Park all the statutory consultees and not least of all, their community, only to withdraw less than a month before the hearing because they apparently failed to carry out the most basic and fundamental requirement of securing the land.

    But is this the real reason, or a convenient one that deflects from other issues?

    Whatever the reasons are (and we should be told), this is an outrageous and colossal waste of public money; questions should and will be asked and for once, the Trust must answer.

  3. I totally agree with the previous comments, in this financial climate I value where my pennies go.
    Can I ask one simple question please ?
    When is the Trust intending to advise Argyll Council this application is to be withdrawn?

  4. Absolutely ridiculous after all the money that has been blown away and the Trust had no agreement with the farmers ,this is something that should have been dealt with at an early stage in the process .Don’t blame the farmers, from the beginning this application should never have been lodged it was against so many planning policys, if it had been aloud to go to a hearing there was only one outcome and that would have been the recommendation of the Planning Department who have a wealth of knowledge regarding Windfarms through out Argyll&Bute.

  5. Well I totally agree with all the above comments. The trust have not listened to one piece of advice right from the start, they refused to take advice from contractors, AAB Council and numerous other bodies. In the end they have wasted in excess of £200,000 and I personally think they should be held responsible and answer to members of the trust. I emailed the trust only last week asking if planning was to be removed and they came back has “No” however I have found out that on that very day they gave their answer, there was already a draft copy of yesterday’s statement.
    I totally disagree with placing the blame on the farmers and can only see that this is the easy option for the trust. Nobody in their right mind and who has one ounce of common sense would ever put in for planning permission without the signed consent of the land owners. I would also place some proportion of the blame on the trusts legal advisers for not pointing this important point out. Then again it probably was and again they chose to ignore it.
    Lastly I can’t believe at this critical time that not even a statement has been placed on the trusts web site. Again this just goes to show how this charity is being run. I think there are many questions to be answered and sooner rather than later. So common trust tell us the truth for once and answer the questions.

    • Good point Graham – I believe the Trust paid (sorry, taxpayers paid!) around £11,000 for legal services? We would possibly be forgiven for expecting this money to have gone towards making sure this all important land lease option was in place?

  6. I believe I made comment on this blog re the ‘ownership’ of the planning if granted and exhorting all to think carefully somewhere back in Feb this year – and I’m not a lawyer!

    • There’s not a bank in the country who would lend on a project of this nature without that land being secured. So, how were the Trust able to access this level of public funding without this basic requirement being in place? Heads should roll for this one – and what about all those Councillors and MSPs who were so quick to lend their voice and offer their support for this application – one wonders if they’ll be so quick to defend this blatant waste of public money?

      What happens now? The Trust must surely be held accountable for this mess they’ve left in their wake! They have cost both A&BC and the Scottish taxpayers dearly and I think we deserve an explanation from them.

      • What exactly do you want of them? Tarring and feathering? Local and national government lose money on failed projects that make this look like a rounding error, yet they stay in their well paid jobs; the money is no more wasted than any other project that fails to reach fruition for legal or planning reasons. The Trust were and are trying to improve their local area, and do so for no reward. It’s unfortunate that this has happened, but the only folk who never fail at anything don’t try at all; if this had not happened it is likely that planning would have been refused anyway given the advice of the planning department.

        Doubtless the Trust will dust themselves off and get on with the other objectives laid out in the Action Plan and pursuing other projects for the benefit of the peninsula.

  7. This failed because of legal reasons and nothing to do with planning. So the legal people should be held responsible for this error, at the end of the day they were soon quick enough taking their payment. If I turned out poor workmanship or failed in producing the requirement for a client then I would expect to be held responsible. So yes the trust or their legal advisers should be held responsible for wasting mine and other tax payers money.

    The only thing I want and many more is answers to our questions.

  8. What mystifies me is that whilst the Trust was happy to submit its planning application WITHOUT the signed leases appearing to be a vital component it has now chosen to abort with the excuse being the inability to get the farmers to commit ahead of the Hearing.

    • it mystifies me that the Scottish planning legislation allows it ti be submitted without agreements in place.
      Possibly something we should all now be lobbying our MSP on- (especially as the consultation period for the ‘new version’ has just closed. The Renewables section was worded in such a way it was difficult to add a suggestion – followed the current dogma)

  9. The trust were advised from the outset by SNH that their plans were not suitable for the area, it was also pointed out to the trust that this development was outwith the scope of A&B Council.

    The Trust ignored those warnings from the outset and rode roughshod over everyone in their path.

    Whoever pushed on with project after those warnings should step down from their position as they are no leader. The project was doomed from the start!

  10. On 20th October 2012 the RPWCDT held a well attended public meeting in the Burgh Hall. During the well polished presentation by a director a question was raised regarding the wind data; those present were assured that the Trust had the wind data and it was very good. In the landowners statement they state:

    “In a meeting in July 2013, attended by Abe and John and the representative of Community Energy Scotland (CES) who was guiding the Trust Board, that the wind data had still to be secured and was not in the Trust’s possession.”
    In late July 2013 this data was finally secured with the assistance of the CES representative and has to date not been passed to the landowners. It was conveyed to Abe and John that the data does not support the proposed turbine scheme which has been the basis for all discussions and negotiations and the subject of the planning application.”

    If this is correct what impression was the Trust trying to give to the public at the meeting by saying the wind data figures looked good? Was it to get the farmers to sign the option lease agreement? Was it for the planners to get permission? Was it to reassure the Trust’s funders?
    Without mention of disappointing wind data figures in the Trust’s statement of 19th August doubt is cast on the integrity of the farmers with the public. I am sure the farmers have always supported this project for the benefit of the community, a community of which they and their families have been part of for many many years.

    A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into what should have been a very viable project.

  11. I think the Trust must have a public meeting to explain what happened. It will be a nightmare, but it must be held. As it is, the local community is going to find it very hard to trust the Trust again, and it will be a nightmare as far as the Trust applying for other grants, but people put their faith and enthusiasm (and ultimately, their taxes) into this project and we are owed more than a perfunctory press release; we are owed an explanation.

    • Not one word from the Trust. I think this is a disgrace and to think the supporters were going to trust them with maybe ? £300000 of their money.

  12. I challenge the Trust to release the Wind Data provided by their adviser -Community Energy Scotland- evidencing its efficacy to produce the proposed 11.5 Megawatt Wind Farm. Proof of this will go a long way to assuage the cynic in me that reckons this is its “Achilles heel”!!!!

    • I am adding my support to Harry’s request that the Trust publish the wind data analysis for the proposed project. After all, it was public money that paid for the collection and analysis of the wind, some £40K I might add!

      I would also remind the Trust of Andrew Reid’s comment that the Trust would make this data available:

      Andrew Reid says: 12. October 28, 2012 at 8:13 am
      I can assure SF that the Peninsula West Trust is not trying to mislead anyone in relation to the potential energy output from the proposed wind turbines at Cove. As a member of the Trust Board, I had responded to an earlier comment that, “On the point about wind farms only working for half of the time, in fact the standard national calculation is based on 30% output, and the Trust has taken that into account in its financial calculations.” This same information is also conveyed publicly in the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Trust’s website. Raising the finance for the development depends on being able to produce reliable supported evidence and the Trust will continue to seek to do not only that, but to make the evidence publicly available.

  13. I have just established a company called Fair Winds for Scotland. The concept is simple FW4 is to be a Scottish development company, backed by some financiers in the south that will seek to make developments that are transparent and honest, all backed by well known Scots who will supervise us and ensure we dont drift off our high minded intentions.
    These ethical auditors include Robin Harper of the Greens, Rev Andrew Patterson and Duncan Mcgiilvray, the well known piper..
    We hope to bridge the gap between voluntary organisations such as the Trust and big business. A couple of us will be over around the site tomorrow just having a look and we hope to be making a few calls later.
    Whilst our intention is to make mioney we hope to do so in a responsible manner. Maxwell Macleod. 0131-317-7127.

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