With regard to the offer made to the community council by the CGDT chair to hold a public meeting to discuss the community project to build two wind turbines in Stronafian Forest, the determination of the Development Trust board on the matter is as follows.
After much discussion the board have decided not to go ahead with a public meeting. There are several reasons for this:
1. The planning application is being processed and further discussion will not add materially to the outcome of the council’s deliberations.
2. We have invested over £120,000 in this project as part of a CARES loan. We have match-funded this investment at a rate of 5% of Forest Development Funds. This is a significant commitment for the trust, with these funds being applied for and granted in the full light of community scrutiny through AGMs, published minutes and community plans. We are bound by that commitment to follow the process through and we believe that while it is everyone’s right to have a view on a planning application, we are disappointed that the community members who are now so strenuously objecting didn’t make their views known at an earlier juncture and in a spirit of consensual community planning.
3. We are further disappointed that these concerns were not raised when the initial planning decision to allow a met mast to be constructed was made.
4. Furthermore, and in the light of 2 & 3 above we are more than content that there were sufficient public consultation meetings over the last 2 years for the community to be fully appraised of the project. The Community Council is well aware that owning and running our own renewables project has been a primary objective for the Trust since 2009.
5. We are not convinced that a further meeting will provide any level of resolution for either those who support the trust’s application or those who do not. We are concerned that if we provided a community forum in this format there is likely to be a deepening of the adversarial climate which has emerged over the issue.
6. The Development Trust has maintained a transparent stance with regard to the project, and have always encouraged members of the community to come to the board, individual directors or our staff to express concerns.
7. As we have said repeatedly at AGMs and other meetings, the Development Trust would rather those whose are dissatisfied with our progress, step up, become directors or members of working groups and help direct the trust’s agenda.
8. We stand by our assertions of the benefit of this development to the whole community: in its ability to offset many of the cuts the council is having to apply; and in its support of the development plan (redrafted in 2013) which the Development Trust is following (and which is published through the CGDT website).
9. Lastly, planning consent if we receive it, is only one step along a much longer road which involves subsidy levels, funding rounds, finance and business planning – all of which will dictate whether or not this is a viable project. To go forward this project must earn the community at least £57,500 per annum on average in combined profit and community benefit.