Businessman’s fury over rugby club sponsorship

A Denholm businessman is accusing a high-profile wind farm company of “buying support” for a controversial development near Denholm.

Alan Bailey, who owns Ruberslaw Wild Woods Camping, claims Banks Renewables “appear to have been cultivating support via sponsorship deals tied to a commitment to support wind farm applications”.

And despite having a tourist-reliant business, he says he was never consulted over proposals to erect fifteen 132m high turbines at Birneyknowe.

And not only is he critical that Hawick Rugby Club sent out an email containing three pro-forma letters to members last month asking them to support the bid, but also that local knitwear manufacturer Peter Scott has been courted with an offer from Banks to sponsor apprenticeships.

The deal with the rugby club is believed to include £10,000-a-year, while the sponsorship of the knitwear apprenticeship, according to Peter Scott’s operations manager, Alistair Young, who was quoted on Banks’ website, could cost “an average of £15,000”.

In an email to Greens members, club official Charlie Oliver wrote: “Our main sponsor, Banks Renewables, are at a crucial stage in the application process for the Birneyknowe wind farm. As a club we are committed to support their bid. I have been asked to gather letters of support on behalf of Banks and would be grateful, if you are so minded, for your help.”

Members were then asked to fill in one of three letters which would be forwarded to Banks’ project development manager.

Speaking this week, Mr Bailey said: “These organisations are not going to be impacted by these proposals. Banks is buying support from people who are not going to be affected.”

And Mr Bailey, who lives at Spittal Tower added: “Banks is aware of our business concerns as they have produced a wire frame that shows that our most important hill pitches will see all 15 turbines. So, to be completely omitted from their tourism impact assessment can only be a deliberate attempt to avoid admitting that their business is in direct conflict with ours.”

Greens President Ross Cameron said the deal with Banks came with “no strings attached”: “As with all rugby clubs, Hawick RFC depends on a number of companies and individuals for sponsorship. This season we are pleased that Banks Renewables is again our principal sponsor. In return for the financial support, we offer a range of advertising and promotional activity.

“As our principal sponsor, Banks Renewables asked if we would help distribute their letter to our contacts.

“I am entirely comfortable with our actions in this matter.”

Banks Renewables said: “Irrespective of what decision is made on our planning application for Birneyknowe, we are glad to have made a positive and meaningful contribution in this area during the past two years.

“While our support of groups to date is independent of and separate from the planning process, we are clear that should our plans be given the go-ahead, the wind farm would continue to contribute positively to the surrounding area for the next 25 years.

“Funding would also be created for workplace training and job-creation schemes and apprenticeships, while local businesses will have the opportunity to benefit from a significant amount of all construction-related contracts.

Peter Scott did not return our call.