ANTI wind farm campaigners have called for an investigation after it was revealed that bogus letters of support were submitted to Aberdeenshire Council, backing a single turbine scheme in the area.
Members of the council’s Garioch area committee were told at a meeting yesterday that six of the letters of support for the turbine scheme were fake.
But the council has confirmed the authority does not intend to contact the Police directly as identity-theft complaints are a matter for the householders involved.
Councillors were told that the fake letters of support were sent to the council in relation to an application by farmer Joseph Dow to erect a single 150ft high turbine at his farm at Upper Sauchen, Ordhead, near Inverurie.
A total of 430 representations - 373 letters of support and 57 letters objection - were received by the council. Six of the letters of support were found to be bogus. Three came back undelivered or with a message that there was no such address. Three other householders called the planning service to say they had never lodged any representation.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman said today: “When a letter of representation is received by the council, an acknowledgement is automatically posted to the author of the letter. In this case, Royal Mail returned three of those acknowledgements, as the stated address was unknown to the postal service or does not exist. Those letters of representation have been removed from the planning application
“We also received several phone calls from people who had received acknowledgements, to say they had not written letters of representation. These people have been asked to confirm in writing that they have not
submitted the letters which have been received under their names.”
She continued: “Elected members were verbally updated on the situation before making their determination on the planning application at Garioch Area Committee on Tuesday. If anybody whose name has been falsely used to send a letter of representation wants to make a formal complaint to police, we will provide any support and information that we can.”
Hugh Falconer, of the Sauchen Group Against Wind Turbines, said: “I think the council ignored the warning signs given the sheer number of letters of support that emerged after the application was initially deferred.This issue needs to be looked at and I am disappointed Aberdeenshire Council is not doing so properly.”
Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes, the deputy leader of the council, said: “I think it’s extremely sad that letters of support have been sent to this council and appear to be bogus. I’ve never heard of that in my eleven years as a councillor and it causes me great concern.
“We’ve had letters and petitions and sometimes people do say they can’t remember signing them, but this is the first time in my experience that letters of support appear to have been fabricated.”
The single turbine development was approved by six votes to three.
Stephen Archer, the council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, had recommended approval of the scheme. He stated in a report to the committee: “In relation to this specific site there are a relatively low number of turbines which can be viewed within the wider landscape. Across Aberdeenshire Council it is generally then case that commercial scale wind energy is now an established and intensifying element in the countryside that has altered or is further altering the perceived landscape character at a local and now increasingly at a region wide level.
“The proposal will have an impact on the character of the local area both individually and cumulatively and an impact from some viewpoints. However, this impact is on balance considered acceptable.”