24 residents attended a public meeting in the Village Hall on Tuesday, 31 March to discuss the formation of a Hydro Steering Group for the proposed Hydro schemes in Ardentinny.
Chairperson, Dougie Menzies explained that the purpose of the meeting was to set up a Steering Group which would be tasked with drawing up the Constitution of a future Hydro Trust and the appointment of its Trustees which would then manage the income from renewable energy projects on behalf of the community.
He said that a pre steering group had been formed after the developer Co Hydrover approached the Community Council. This group of 8 included Ian McInnes MBE; Councillor Bruce Marshall; and National Park representative, David Mackenzie. However, they were keen to recruit a wider group of people in order to tap into the wealth of ideas and skills across the community to establish a formal Steering Group.
It was stressed that it was not the intention to discuss the project in detail, as it was in the very early stages and it was suggested that the developer was already experiencing delays liaising with Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).
Mr. Malcolm Crosby, FCS Project Manager for Onshore Renewables informed us that, while he had been unaware of Tuesday night’s meeting, the developer had met with representatives of Ardentinny Community Council in January and that normal procedures for progressing the project were underway. He explained that FCS’ solicitors must first check the Titles of the land in question and that that process had begun. In the meantime, the developer can conduct walk-over surveys, something the Chair affirmed had begun, but any investigative drilling work etc. must wait for their solicitors’ report and its acceptance by the developer.
There will be an opportunity to discuss the project with the developer at a future public meeting later in the year but the current focus is to open up membership of the Steering Group to everyone in the village.
Ian McInnes suggested that it would be useful to have the publication of the Community Action Plan coincide with the developer’s public meeting. An example of a project that they have already been involved in is that of Kilfinnan Community Forest.
It was pointed out that the future Hydro Trust would manage income from all Hydro Schemes. For example, Ross MacArthur’s private scheme, which is a little further on, would be included. Indeed other renewables projects could be included which are not necessarily limited to hydro. David Mackenzie referred to other Trusts which handle not only income but outgoings where communities have decided to invest in certain schemes in order to obtain a greater return.This could be another item for consideration by the Steering Group.
A question was raised as to how open Trust membership would be and the response was that that would be a decision for the Steering Group. FCS have published regulations on “Defining an appropriate community organisation” for communities to receive community benefit from developer-led renewable energy projects on the National Forest Estate Also Argyll and Bute Council’s Onshore Renewables Community Benefits Consultation results, which are currently being collated, could be another useful information source for the future Steering Group.
The Chair then asked for volunteers to join the Steering Group and a further 8 came forward. The group comprised:
Anyone else in the village who would like to join is welcome to do so. If you are interested in participating, contact Dougie Menzies on 01369 810307.