Point and Sandwick Trust reject the Stornoway Trust’s explanation of lease agreement terms

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The Stornoway Trust has been hit by further criticism in regards to the lease agreement granted to Lewis Windpower (LWP), the renewable energy developer.

The Gazette reported yesterday (Wednesday) the Trust’s defence on its Facebook page which addressed the claim that they have surrendered their status as crofting landlord to that company.

The post described such views as: ‘misconceptions in regards to the nature, duration and terms of the lease agreement with Lewis Wind Power’.

The statement went on to give details of the lease agreement, but instead of laying the matter to rest the Trust’s explanation has generated more criticism, this time from Point and Sandwick Trust, whose lease agreement was highlighted in the Stornoway Trust’s Facebook update, part of which, stated: ‘The leasee relinquished its interest in the Beinn Ghrìdeag site in favour of the Trust, (Stornoway Trust) in order that the landlord could then grant permission for Point and Sandwick Trust to build their wind farm there’.

But this afternoon Point and Sandwick Trust rejected this stance, and issued a statement detailing: “The Stornoway Trust have come under attack over the lease that they granted to Lewis Wind Power which appears to give the latter the powers of a landlord over the leased area, including over crofting common grazings on the Stornoway General and on grazings apportioned to a number of local townships.

“In their defence of the LWP lease, the Stornoway Trust cited the example of the Point and Sandwick wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag, and claimed that LWP had “reliniquished its interest in the Beinn Ghrideag site” in favour of Stornoway Trust, in order that the landlord could then grant permission for Point and Sandwick Trust to build their wind farm there”.

“In effect, we have two landlords both of whom signed the Beinn Ghrideag lease, the Stornoway Trust and Lewis Windpower.

“Obviously we would have preferred a straightforward traditional lease between ourselves and the Stornoway Trust, but it was made clear that this was unacceptable to LWP as they had an overall lease and could call the shots.

“It was also a very expensive arrangement as we had to pay LWP’s full legal costs and, even worse, their lawyers, Pinsent Mason, demanded that we pay them up front before they would even discuss the lease with us.

“In total, we had to negotiate for two years and pay £57,455 to LWP’s lawyers in order to get them to agree to our lease with the Stornoway Trust.

“We were a community group wanting to build a community wind farm on community land owned by a community landlord, but we still had to pay LWP £57,000 to get our lease.

“Our experience fully supports Lewis Kermack’s analysis (highlighted by online news source Hebrides Writer - www.hebrideswriter.com) that LWP now have the final say over everything that happens on the old Stornoway General Grazings.”

In answer to the points raised by Point and Sandwick Trust about Lewis Windpower’s (LWP) role in the process, a spokesperson for LWP said: “We were very happy to work with Point and Sandwick Development Trust to enable the development of the Beinn Ghrideag Wind Farm by giving up an area within our lease with the Stornoway Trust.

“With regards to legal costs, it is very much standard practice that an organisation seeking to take on a new lease would be responsible for the legal costs, irrespective of who they and the leaseholder are.

“It is not true to say that we are effectively a landlord over the Beinn Ghrideag Wind Farm, and are unsure as to why this claim is being made.”

The Stornoway Trust said of the points raised: “It is completely untrue that LWP has the status of landlord, in addition to or in place of the Trust and we absolutely continue to be the Landlord of the Grazings and the Beinn Ghrideig and the Pentland windfarms.

“In relation to the Beinn Ghrideig lease, the development site was originally included in the LWP lease area. LWP are a consenter to the lease to confirm the renunciation of the Beinn Ghrideig area from the LWP lease and also to ensure the Beinn Ghrideig development could benefit from any necessary access or other rights over the retained LWP lease area.

“The inclusion of LWP as consenter to the lease in fact ensured that that the Beinn Ghrideig project could benefit from all the rights it required to allow it to proceed.”