The developer of a proposed windfarm has been accused of exploiting schoolchildren, weeks before a decision on the project is due to be made.
Buchan residents Michele Emslie and Lynda Wilde made the accusation following workshops which were commissioned by PNE Wind who hope to develop the windfarm at the Hill of Braco site near Hatton.
The workshops were commissioned by PNE Wind and delivered by Rowanbank Environmental Education Trust. The trust visited Hatton, Longhaven and Longside primary schools where the children learned about a range of environmental issues, including green energy and climate change.
Commenting, Buchan resident Michele Emslie said: “I’m not against green energy - like many people in the area, we have solar panels ourselves.
“I welcome any agency that wants to provide educational opportunities to young people but I do have a problem about the timing of these workshops.
“PNE setting up workshops in the three schools which are closest to the proposed development, and doing so only eight weeks before the planning decision, is unacceptable.
“PNE Wind told us they would not be present at the workshops but a representative from PNE Wind was in attendance.
“Rosie Vetter said her company would not be willing to fund education after the results of the planning application.
“She also said that PNE Wind would be unwilling to provide a life-size blimp to let people see the size of the proposed wind turbines.”
Fellow Buchan resident Lynda Wilde said: “I am not against green energy at all and I don’t have an issue with green education. But education has to be impartial. Why did PNE Wind even have to be present at the workshops?
“I’d also like to know why these schools were targeted. I feel that PNE Wind were trying to influence the school children.
“I also feel that the minutes of the CLG meeting should have taken by a neutral person, not someone from PNE Wind’s PR company, Bellenden.
“The site of the proposed development is a site of special scientific interest because of the flint on the site. I fear we could lose part of our heritage because of this development.”
Commenting, Michael Dixon of Bellenden said: “We would reiterate that the workshops cover all aspects and different sources of renewable energy including wind, hydro and solar. They were arranged following consultation with the Community Liaison Group, and each of the schools were offered the workshops as part of PNE’s wider commitment to the Buchan community. The feedback from the schools following the workshops has been overwhelmingly positive.”
On the question of a member of the PNE Wind team being present at the school workshops, Mr Dixon said: “A PNE representative was in attendance. The representative was there to observe but she did not participate in any way.
On a separate question about which schools were involved with the workshops, Mr Dixon continued: “If other schools had been suggested by the CLG they would have been taken into account.”
A decision on the major Hill of Braco development is expected before Christmas.