Loch Arkaig hy­dro cash talks gen­er­ate no res­o­lu­tion

The Oban Times - - NEWS - By Mark En­twistle men­twistle@oban­times.co.uk

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.

Pho­to­graph: Abright­side Pho­tog­ra­phy.

Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Ach­nacarry chair­man John Fother­ing­ham.

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