Saturday, May 17, 2008

Philanthropic City Financiers?

By and large city financiers are not well known for their desire to save the planet or by large-scale philanthropic gestures that will aid the needy and the less well off. It’s not to decry those that do make chartable donations and gestures it’s just to make the point that they get their rocks of by making money.

There’s news today that Nicholas Oppenheim the man behind the Beinn Mhor Power company who wants to put a 53 turbine wind farm on Lewes wants us to believe that he’s bucking the trend. An enquiry yesterday was told that six of the turbines have been signed over to the community and will bring in more than £1 million a year and the development will also create up to 100 direct and indirect jobs. Beinn Mhor Power’s plan was originally for 133 turbines at Muaitheabhal but has been reduced to 53, of which 27 would be within a National Scenic Area.

Obviously there’s a lot of people objet to this scheme, many of them local people who have a stake in the tourism industry in one way or another, others just don’t want to live in earshot, or eye line of the wind farm. Mr. Oppenheim’s company argues that it will be good for local people and largely because the city financier, who sometimes flies from Stornoway to Wall Street by private jet, is being so generous in giving the locals six turbines of their own. Clearly such an act of philanthropy must mean that his company stands to make a huge amount of money from the remaining 47 turbines? Indeed that’s what is so wrong about the whole on shore turbine business. The subsidies dolled out by government to windfarm developers and landowners are so obscene that it’s a huge temptation for any man who has the inclination to build.

While it’s clear that the money will be of some benefit to the community it’s difficult to see quite how. What businesses will be built up on the back of it? Certainly not tourism. There’s even an argument that suggests that rather than encouraging more people to move to the Outer Hebrides it might cause many who don’t want a wind farm as a neighbor to move away. There are also implications for the eagle population, which looks like taking a battering, literally, from the huge turbines.

As Catriona Campbell, a protester against the development, said it was senseless to destroy the National Scenic Area to provide green energy: "You violate one green thing to achieve another green thing. In principle, I support renewable energy but I think this scheme is wrong."

All over Scotland Areas of Great Landscape Value, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Scenic Areas are being blighted by the windbaggers intent of lining their pockets with our money on schemes of questionable value. The SNP continue to speak out of both sides of their mouths on the whole business of wind farms and still give no clear lead on the matter. Here in the Lammermuir Hills we are still awaiting the results of a public enquiry on a wind farm even bigger than this one. It took place at the start of the year and still no word. Meanwhile another opportunistic local Borders landowner has opted to apply for yet another windfarm that will make him a lot of money while quite possibly adversely affecting the value of nearby properties and certainly doing nothing to enhance this area of great landscape value. In years to come some may feel the shame of their actions but I doubt that many city financiers will miss a beat while flying around the world in the private jets sipping a G&T while contaminating the atmosphere.

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