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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 13:28 GMT
Village fights for wind farm cash
By Sandy Murray
BBC Scotland

A small Scottish community has begun the fight to hold on to its share of compensation from a nearby wind farm.

People in the village of Forth in South Lanarkshire have demanded guarantees that the money will benefit the community closest to the development.

Wind farm
The wind farm will start generating power next year
South Lanarkshire Council has proposed to administer most of the compensation payments through one of its committees.

It says that arrangement would be more efficient than setting up an independent local trust fund.

The wind generation plans for Black Law, near Forth, will involve the construction of up to 62 turbines.

With an output of 143MW, the development has been designed as one of the largest in the UK.

Costing 130m, the Black Law wind farm is intended to start generating power in the spring of next year.

Muriel Griffin
Forth could do with a lot of money to bring it up to scratch
Muriel Griffin
ScottishPower, which is behind the plan, is expected to make regular payments for the benefit of the local community, totalling about 100,000 per year.

As one of the largest onshore wind farm developments to date, more money is at stake than ever before.

Compensation for other wind farm projects in Scotland has been administered by independent local trusts.

Campaigners in Forth said they believe such an arrangement would ensure that most of the money is spent locally.

Many of them have felt aggrieved that their community has received little in return for other environmental blights on their landscape, such as open-cast coal mines.

Larger share

Local residents have organised themselves into the Forth and District Initiative Group to win a larger share of the Black Law compensation.

Their supporters have stressed that the principle of constructing the wind turbines is not an issue.

Rena Whyte, the group's secretary, said: "There has been no opposition as such in the community to the wind farm.

A fund would be able to increase the level of funding available by utilising existing staff and mechanisms
Council spokeswoman
"The wind farm is on an old open-cast site - it is in many ways a benefit that ScottishPower have taken on putting that land into proper use."

Muriel Griffin, a former community councillor, said there were no shortage of local projects which needed funding.

"We have quite a lot of ideas where we could spend the money... and good ideas," she explained.

"There's a lot of different things the money could be spent on, our recreation park for a kick off.

"Forth could do with a lot of money to bring it up to scratch."

Grant payments

South Lanarkshire Council has said that a single stand-alone fund, administered by the council, would have a number of advantages over an independent trust.

"Such a fund would be able to increase the level of funding available by utilising existing staff and mechanisms," said a spokeswoman.

"It could also be used to access additional funding possibilities so as to boost the level of community benefit still further."

The council's plan is to ringfence 30% of the money paid by ScottishPower for small community grant payments in the local area.

Rena Whyte
They have never consulted us to see if we have projects
Rena Whyte
The balance of the fund will be used to cover general projects within 10km of the boundary of the wind farm site.

The council has claimed that there is no reason why all of the money will not be spent in the Forth area, provided that there are sufficient appropriate projects to take advantage of the 70% balance in the fund.

But the local authority appears to have much to do to rebuild the trust of local people.

"Why should we believe what they're saying?" asks Rena Whyte.

"They're saying to us that if we have suitable projects (they will receive funding) but they have never consulted us to see if we have projects.

"In a recent meeting the council's chief executive said 'we need to consult with our communities' so why then are they not doing that?"

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