Family call for end to personal pressure over wind farm

April 30, 2012 | Community News

A close-knit family whose farm land could become part of the site of a new wind farm have called for objectors to rein in the personal pressure being exerted on them.

The Harrower family has farmed a 766 acre site for 50 years and the current generation hope to see an area of problem land given over to production of renewable energy.

However, the decision to work with Hamilton-based Banks Renewables has seen them come under fire from objectors opposed to the Ard Ghaoth development, near Drymen in Stirlingshire.

Craig and Jane Harrower, who have three daughters aged nine, 12 and 16, say the constant criticism levelled at them by wind power opponents is unfair, unjustified – and upsetting.

Mr Harrower said: “This is a working farm so I start at 5am and am lucky if I’m finished by 8pm, which means I don’t really have time to be on the internet or reading newspapers.

“But I can’t ignore how upsetting this has become for my wife in particular. She has been roundly condemned by a hard core of objectors who regularly write letters to newspapers and post their comments on Facebook.

“What is ironic about this is that I have lived and worked here my entire life and been part of this community – some of the people criticising us over this certainly can’t say the same. Yet, we’ve been accused of having ‘no conscience’ or not caring for the environment.

“In fact we have thought carefully about this every step of the way in the 10 years since we were first approached by wind farm developers. Our decision to go-ahead was helped by the fact the Scottish Government is totally committed to developing renewable energy for our future.

“On the environmental question, the moorland on our farm was totally stripped of wildlife by foxes and in the past 20 years I have put in huge amounts of time to control the problem and encourage back black grouse and other wildlife. That is never mentioned.”

With 80 beef cattle and a flock of 700 ewes, all members of the Harrower family help out on the farm, though the bulk of the work is carried out by Mr Harrower working alone. The risks were highlighted in the past month when he was hospitalised after a quad bike accident when a fox startled a collie helping him round up his sheep.

He added: “It can be a tough life, but I’m not complaining because we love farming here. The truth is the land where the turbines may go is very poor quality and we can do nothing with it.

“I have nothing to be ashamed of because I am considering other ways the land could be used to help me support my family. One of the reasons we chose to work with Banks Renewables is because they have a strong record of making sure the wider community also benefits.”

Wife Jane said the family were delighted when they learnt Banks Renewables proposed giving £7.2 million to a local partnership package – money which would benefit local groups, charities and good causes over the 25 years of a wind farm.

She added: “I know there are many people quite happy for the development to go ahead, who would be genuinely upset to lose out on the community financial package. It’s just a shame they are not as vocal as the objectors.

“This scheme will help keep the lights on in Scotland, help reduce harmful emissions which contribute to climate change, create jobs for local contractors and bring a massive financial benefit to local groups and organisations.

“I understand some people object to the perceived visual impact of the turbines while others do not mind them. It is absolutely their right to voice those objections and to challenge the planning application by the due process. After all, it was planners who zoned this area as appropriate for potential wind farm development.

“But I’m genuinely fed up being vilified all the time and I want people to know that calling into question our reputation and personal qualities, while certainly upsetting, will do nothing to change our minds to see through this process.

“It would be great if the vast majority of people who clearly think this development is good for the community could voice that support as well.”

Mr and Mrs Harrower have also been upset by objectors who repeatedly refer to the potential wind farm as Craigievern, which is the name of their farm. In fact, the development is called Ard Ghaoth and would straddle both Craigievern and neighbouring Blairfad farms.

The couple also insist images which have been used to represent the site are misleading and do not show the area where the windfarm would be developed.

Mrs Harrower added: “The pictures show an attractive green meadow. We have no idea where the picture was taken, but it is nothing like the actual muddy, brown and unattractive site. It is every bit as perplexing as why many of the protestors refuse to have any discussion with the developers, Banks Renewables.”

Colin Anderson, director at Banks Renewables, said: “Clearly the personal nature of some comments from objectors has been distressing for the Harrower family. It is also extremely unfair and we would urge anyone with objections to deal directly with us.”

Banks Renewables is part of the Banks Group (www.banksgroup.co.uk), a family firm founded in 1976, which now employs 380 people in the renewables, property and mining sectors. The company’s Development with Care approach underpins all its work, driving community consultation and environmental excellence.

It develops land for commercial and residential property development and is committed to creating sustainable communities where people want to live and work, developing sites ranging from less than an acre to more than 300 acres.

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