CS Wind owners lose appeal over factory equipment

The first ever large-scale offshore tower being produced at CS Wind UK, for the Walney Project owned by DONG energy. Photograph by Raymond Hosie.

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The Kintyre councillors who co-signed an open letter to the owners of CS Wind urging them to seek orders for the Machrihanish wind tower factory or let others take over the operation have welcomed news that the company has failed to overturn a court order preventing the removal of equipment from the site.

CS Wind instructed lawyers to go to the Inner House of the Court of Session – the highest appeal court in Scotland – in a bid to remove an interim interdict placed on it last March but, it was revealed last week, that the appeal judges upheld the original decision.

A judgement issued by the court tells how the business received ‘substantial’ funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help it produce the energy generators, and in return agreed to ‘various limitations’ on its activities until March 2021.

However, HIE feared that the South Korean-owned company was removing key equipment from the site – which would breach their agreement – after CS Wind expressed fears about the sustainability of the business and made 75 per cent of its 94 employees redundant.

This prompted HIE to obtain an interim interdict preventing CS Wind – which made a £27 million investment in the site in 2016 and reported pre-tax profits in excess of £7 million in 2018 – from removing the equipment.

Lawyers acting for CS Wind told Inner House judges Lord Carloway, Lord Malcolm and Lord Menzies that the interdict was unlawful, claiming that the agreement between the wind tower manufacturer and HIE didn’t cover plant equipment used at the site – although their clients didn’t have any intention of removing it – and argued that the judge who passed the interim interdict didn’t follow the correct legal tests when considering the case.

However, the Inner Houses judges refused to overturn the interim interdict and said their colleague acted correctly.

In giving the court’s decision, Lord Malcolm wrote: ‘Suffice to say that, having considered all the submissions, both oral and written, we have identified no good reason to criticise the view taken by the commercial judge on the question of prima facie case.

‘For the above reasons, the reclaiming motion is refused and the action will be remitted to the commercial roll for further procedure.’

Councillor John Armour said: ‘I am pleased but not in the least surprised that the judges did not agree to overturning the original decision. I now see CS Wind wants to talk to those of us who were signatories to the letter to look at a way forward.

‘While I welcome that, we need to see evidence that new contracts are being sought and these talks don’t just become a way of CS Wind asking the government for more financial support. The Scottish Government and HIE have been more than generous and, when talking to some of the local workers, they were very keen to stress that throwing more money at CS Wind was not the answer.’

Councillor Anne Horn added: ‘As CS Wind does not appear to be making any attempt to attract contracts it should now be incumbent on the company to vacate the premises at Machrihanish to allow for development that will encourage economic growth in Kintyre.

‘It is imperative that the equipment remains at the site to allow for future development in the renewable industry and the employment opportunities that will bring to the area.’

Councillor Rory Colville said: ‘We have to make all opportunities for the Kintyre economy work. Our geography and local expertise bring key opportunities for the renewable energy sector among others.

‘The judgement from the Inner House refers to further legal procedures, so it would not be appropriate to comment in detail on this outcome. For Kintyre, my focus will continue to be on turning opportunities into jobs and business growth.’