Calls made for end to attempted backtrack on wind farm cash deal

Chairman of Southdean Community Council Philip Kerr.
Chairman of Southdean Community Council Philip Kerr.

A controversial change suggested to a £3m wind farm funding pot to yield a bigger share for Hawick has been slammed as a “stab in the back” to neighbouring communities.

Members of Hawick Community Council turned on their vice-chairman at this month’s meeting to insist any plans to go back on an original agreement be dropped.

Late last year, verbal agreement had been reached between the seven community councils in Teviot and Liddesdale that each would receive shares of a community benefit fund set up after approval was given for the 12-turbine Pines Burn wind farm on the Harwood Estate, near Bonchester Bridge.

That’s a fund believed to be worth up to £120,000 a year for the next 25 years.

Within those plans, community councils at Hawick, Southdean, Denholm, Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage, Newcastleton, and Upper Teviotdale and Borthwick Water would receive an equal share of the funding. Hobkirk would receive a double share due to its being located closest to the forthcoming development.

However, in March some members of the new Hawick Community Council went back on that verbal agreement in an attempted to change the way that cash is distributed.

Its new vice-chairman, Graham Marshall, suggested that funds be allocated on the basis of each community’s population instead.

That would mean that Hawick, with the largest population, would receive the lion’s share of the cash.

Last week community councillor French Wright claimed the idea of going back on the agreement was damaging the council’s name.

“That decision should stand, otherwise the credibility of this community council is down the cludgy,” he told vice-chairman Graham Marshall.

“Are you just going to go back on any decision we have made in the past and change it?

“The other six community councils agree that we are going to give Hobkirk an extra share.

“You want to backtrack on that and take the money away from the little guy and that isn’t going down well with the other community councils.”

Fellow community councillor Cameron Knox added: “Hawick was never involved with Pines Burn. We were invited by the others.

“We now appear to be stabbing them in the back.

“It’s as simple as that.”

Mr Marshall said a decision on how to proceed would only be taken once he had received information on the fund back from developer Energiekontor.

Speaking at a public forum after the meeting, Southdean Community Council chairman Philip Kerr told the group that the six rural community councils involved were pressing ahead with plans to form a joint charitable organisation to handle the cash, regardless of Hawick’s indecision.

“The other six have all passed the same motion subsequent to the suggestion that the terms might be changed,” he said.

“That is, we agree to the original terms which was a double share for Hobkirk.

“If that doesn’t work we will resort to equal shares.

“We’ve all agreed there is no scope for negotations.

“The SCIO has been filed and it does not include Hawick. When it comes back we intend to ask Hawick whether they want to be part of the SCIO or not.”