Row over wind-farm plan for Midlothian estate

Sir Robert Clerk said the community would benefit. Picture: Neil Hanna
Sir Robert Clerk said the community would benefit. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE tranquil beauty of the Pentland and Moorfoot hills has been disturbed by a row over a wind farm proposed for land owned by an aristocratic family.

Plans for the Mount Lothian wind farm on Sir Robert Clerk of Penicuik’s estate have infuriated a neighbouring landowner – the financier Peter de Vink.

Mr de Vink claims Sir Robert is “trousering millions” in wind farm subsidies and maintains that erecting “monstrous” wind turbines in rural Midlothian will wreck unspoilt countryside.

The bitter feud has broken out over a plan to build nine 335ft-high turbines – seven of which are proposed for the Clerk-owned Penicuik estate.

The proposal has received numerous objections, including one from the author Alexander McCall Smith. But it is Mr de Vink who is one of the most vocal critics of what he describes as a “wind factory”, to be sited a couple of miles from his 800-acre estate near the conservation village of Howgate.

Mr de Vink believes it is an unjust system that allows landowners to cash in by renting their land to renewable generators, whose wind farms are subsidised by levying extra cash from ordinary electricity consumers. “It makes the rich richer and the poor poorer,” Mr de Vink said. “It is the opposite of Robin Hood.”

Moreover, Mr de Vink claims that turbines overlooking his property will decrease its value by up up to £1.5 million and said he intends to take legal action against Sir Robert if the plans win approval.

“I will have the estate valued before the wind farm and I will have it valued after the wind farm. The difference has gone into the trousers of Robert Clerk, so I will sue him. My lawyer says it will set a precedent,” said Mr de Vink, who sits on Midlothian Council as an independent.

Mr de Vink claimed Sir Robert, a baronet whose family have lived on the Penicuik Estate for generations, would gain millions in rent from the development. He is also angry that locals have been left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket after they fought successfully in 2010 to defeat a wind farm at nearby Auchencorth on the Penicuik Estate.

The Wind Prospect Group and EDF Energy Renewables, the companies behind the latest venture, refused to disclose details of the rental arrangement.

Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said that deals varied but the “rule of thumb” was that a lease agreement would specify about £15,000 per turbine per year.

“Thus we can estimate that for nine turbines at Mount Lothian, the annual rental income for the landowners could be about £135,000 and the lifetime rent about £2.7m,” Dr Constable said yesterday.

When Mr de Vink’s claim the landowner would be “trousering millions” was put to Sir Robert, he replied: “I wish I were.” On Mr de Vink’s plan for legal action, Sir Robert said: “I’m not interested in threats like that.” Sir Robert said: “We will be putting at least 25 per cent of it [the money] into projects on the estate, from which the public will benefit very substantially. And also a great deal of money will be going to the local community.”