Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wind farm cash – Cawdor CC to be “more equal than others”

Gurnites will perhaps remember this early article “Cawdor and West Nairnshire contemplate wind farm cash” which we published in January. On Monday night Cawdor CC again discussed the Tom na Clach wind farm windfall that will be coming their way in a few years time. 

The Chair Tim Smith and his colleague Meg Robertson recently attended another meeting with representatives from other CC areas that will be benefitting from the Tom na Clach wind farm payouts. There were calls at that meeting for the cash to be divided out more equally among the areas rather than along the Highland Council formula that will see Cawdor and West Nairnshire receive 35%.

Reporting back from that meeting to his Council, the Chair,Tim Smith said that it had been quite an informed discussion and “there were some ideas floated about rationalising percentages so that everybody got more of a balanced playing field. Obviously that leaves Cawdor technically at a disadvantage because we are one of the highest recipients with 35% but it would allow people like Carrbridge who are currently on one and a half % to receive some more funding.” He added a little later: “We will be eligible for funding after 2018, it is just how that money is split up.”

Meg Robertson then said:”We need a flavour of what this Community Council actually wants. Whether they are happy to go along with a lower figure or push for the higher figure."

Tim continued: “I did reflect after the event. There was some merit I think at the time, from my point of view, about being a bit more utopian about the whole thing and making sure we did split it more differently. The commercial element of my life long career came in and I thought:  “actually why would we do that because I’m not in a position to decide what might or might not be right for other people. I’m here basically for what is best for Cawdor. The best thing for Cawdor is to get as much money as we can.”

Highland Councillor Kate Stephen, one of the Cllrs representing the ward, then interjected: “At that meeting, I was thinking it’ll be nice, let’s just share it around and be equal. There were quite a few people around the table who said it won’t be fair if it is split up in certain ways. So I didn’t know enough about it at the time but I had a meeting with a guy who does a GIS mapping thing. So he went through all the reasons Cawdor gets its percentage [...] you can see the number of houses in Cawdor Community Council area that are actually within 5km of the wind farm. Then you can see the distances. There are 5Km, 10km and 15km and you get points for proximity and there are points for what you can see of the wind farm. [...] It’s actually, really, really fair the way the calculation is done.”

Meg returned to the debate: “One of the counter arguments was the disruption during construction – that other areas are more disrupted.”

Kate said in response that she had been told: “It is very, very hard to measure disruption on the road. If you live near a road, you don’t actually own the road and the road is available for people to drive on so it is very different to measure inconvenience because a lorry is on the road. How many times is the lorry? How many lorries? It is almost impossible to police that and people going up and down the A9 and there is all this other stuff. So they decided there was no way to clearly calculate disruption like that and what they have done instead is they’ve incorporated that into the planning process so the wind farm has to make changes to the road to make it fit for purpose for lorries.”

Tim moved the discussion towards its conclusion: “It sort of reminds me of Napoleon’s comment in Animal Farm: “we’re all equal but some are more equal than others.”

Meg stated that the options were for 35% of the cash or for 15% via a more equitable share out. The Council was unanimous in going for the existing formula that would give their area 35%.

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