Rift healed over turbine meeting format

A PUBLIC consultation to discuss GlaxoSmithKline’s wind turbine proposals will go ahead with the company despite initial disagreement over the meeting’s format.

The pharmaceutical company had resisted calls by Montrose Community Council, which organised next Wednesday’s public meeting, to include a question and answer session with the audience, to prevent the proceedings being hijacked by the “vocal few”.

An agreement has been reached, but community council chairman Peter Davies this week said he was on the verge of withdrawing GSK’s invitation to the meeting if a format could not be agreed.

The community council’s plan was to ask GSK representatives to give a presentation followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Members felt that, in their role as statutory consultees, a public question and answer session would allow them to better represent the public’s views in their formal response to GSK’s planning application for the project.

But in a letter to secretary Tommy Stewart, GSK site director Andrew Ross said the company preferred the format of a 40-minute presentation followed by an opportunity for the public to view exhibition boards, brochures and ask individual questions.

He said: “This will allow a number of people to ask questions at the same time, without the ‘vocal few’ dominating the meeting in a public question and answer session.”

He also suggested that the public discussion could take place after the displays were dismantled and the GSK representatives had left.

Mr Stewart said: “I e-mailed the other community councillors to advise them of GSK’s response. It was felt that to help Montrose Community Council to carry out the statutory consultation properly, it was important that GSK agree to the formal question and answer session.

“They (GSK) in turn responded, acknowledging our request but told us that in their experience their suggested format was much better.”

In a response to Mr Stewart, Les Thomson said the company’s suggested format “creates the ideal opportunity and environment to generate lots of questions.”

By Tuesday morning, however, GSK had changed its position and agreed to a 15-minute open question and answer session with its representatives.

It follows a similar format to a public meeting held in Ferryden in September.

Mr Davies said: “Given the significance of this planning application to GSK, I was absolutely astounded that they took this stance on this issue.

“My members didn’t feel the statutory consultation could be carried out thoroughly, as we felt the most important part of the process was for the Montrose public to scrutinise the presentation through a public question and answer session with GSK and their consultants.

“We felt that if GSK could not agree to our request we would have no alternative but to withdraw their invitation and hold the meeting without them being represented.

“We’re delighted, however, that GSK have changed their minds and are now prepared to take a short period of questions and answers.”

A GSK spokesman confirmed this week that an amicable agreement had been reached.

He said: “The format has been agreed following an exchange with the community council this morning and everyone seems happy with the format arrived at.”

The open meeting, for which an independent chairman has been appointed, will be held in Montrose Academy’s assembly hall next Wednesday, February 15, at 7pm.