The Oban Times
Loch Arkaig hydro cash talks generate no resolution
Two community groups met earlier this month to try to end a bitter dispute over community benefit being paid from hydro power schemes along Loch Arkaig.
The Lochaber Times has previously reported on the row which flared up between Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry Community Council and the ABC Group (Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clues) over the £20,000 per year in community benefit being paid to the ABC Group by Green Highland Renewables (GHR).
Chairman John Fotheringham and his fellow community councillors felt the payments from GHR – now taken over and rebranded as SIMEC GHR – which were negotiated by the ABC Group, should rightfully have come to the community council for disbursement locally as the elected body representing the area.
Mr Fothering had vented his frustration that what he said was an agreement with a previous chairman of the ABC Group to hand over the cash to the community council was now being ignored.
The dispute led to the resignation of Councillor Sandy Edmond, who as well as being a community councillor is also a trustee of the ABC Group, amid accusations of conflict of interest.
Asked for his view at the time, Liam McLoone, ABC Group chairman, told the Lochaber Times the group would not give up the cash or hand over any future payments.
And Mr McLoone and Mr Edmond were both present at this month’s meeting of the community council, which went into a private session at the conclusion of the public session to discuss the matter.
The official minutes of the community council meeting record that community councillors ‘found the response and subsequent actions of the trustees of the ABC Community Group SCIO [Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation] entirely unbelievable’.
And the minutes continued: ‘Without access to the agreements we may struggle to secure any of the funding, but GHR’s takeover might offer us an opportunity to persuade SIMEC GHR to vary the terms.’
It was agreed the council circulate the relevant correspondence to developers and seek information about the negotiations and agreement.
Mr Fotheringham reminded everyone present that they had been elected to serve the whole community and steps had been introduced to ensure standing orders recognised any conflict of interest.
‘We will alert public agencies to ensure we are recognised as the sole elected organisation representing our communities,’ stated the community council in the minutes.
Asked if he wished to comment on either the minutes or the meeting itself, Mr McLoone felt there was nothing to add to what had already been said on behalf of the ABC Group.
At its meeting in October, the ABC Group had decided that, following its previous comments on the matter, no further action was required on its part.