Power company faces backlash as windfarm work resumes

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The power company behind Beinn an Tuirc Windfarm has faced a public backlash as work resumes at phase three of the site despite the country still being in lockdown.

Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) confirmed that work at the site resumed ‘in a phased manner’ on Wednesday (May 6), with ‘a small number of personnel beginning to re-mobilise to the site’.

Construction began on phase three of the windfarm, which is set to host 14 turbines with a maximum height of 126 metres from base to blade-tip, with an operating capacity of up to 50 megawatts, in September last year.

Work was halted at the site, located 7.5 kilometres north of Campbeltown and accessed via West Kintyre, after lockdown was announced amid the current coronavirus pandemic.

However, the latest Scottish Government guidance, published on May 1, permits companies to resume work and continue construction across a number of areas – including energy supply projects – which have been designated ‘essential pubic services’.

Work at phase three of Beinn an Turic Windfarm has been deemed an ‘essential project’ as it falls into the category of energy generation due to be commissioned or exporting within the next 12 months.

Work was scheduled to resume on Monday but when that became known to the public last week many residents voiced their concerns about the potential health risk to the community of the workforce, believed to largely be from the Republic of Ireland, returning to the area.

Councillors John Armour, Donald Kelly and Rory Colville, South Kintyre’s three representatives, each wrote to the company voicing their concerns as well as those of the people in their ward.

A spokesperson for SPR told the Courier: ‘In direct response to the pleas of local politicians following the recent tragic death of a well-known and respected member of the local community, main construction works will not get underway until next week.

‘We’re very aware of the strength of feeling in the local community and are working closely with local representatives – including community councillors, councillors, MP and MSP – to ensure they are fully informed about the extraordinary measures we have put in place to minimise contact between the workforce and local community and to provide the necessary reassurance to the people and communities in Kintyre.’

These measures are said to include managing accommodation, travel and working arrangements based on ‘family units’, arranging food deliveries, and undertaking temperature testing.

The spokesperson added that all works on site will be progressed in line with government guidelines on social distancing.

‘We take our role as a responsible member of the Kintyre community very seriously indeed,’ said the spokesperson, ‘and have appointed a dedicated liaison officer for this project, who is a resident of Campbeltown, and who will keep the local community informed about what we’re doing and highlight any concerns or feedback that may be raised.

‘We will also continue the open and transparent dialogue we’re having with the local community on an ongoing basis.

‘We can assure everyone in Kintyre that the health and wellbeing of local people and staff on site will continue to be a key priority as we get back to work on Beinn an Tuirc Three, allowing us to support the local community together.’

Councillor Donald Kelly said: ‘The Kintyre community has been exceptional and very patient in respect to the lockdown situation, with many people and organisations going well beyond the call of duty in order to keep everyone safe. It is vitally important that this continues and the safety of the Kintyre community is not compromised by people moving in to the area.

‘The Scottish Government has sanctioned this return to work and must be held accountable. I would encourage everyone who has concerns to contact Michael Russell MSP, demanding the appropriate action is taken.’