Plans for biogas generator could be ressurected
WIND turbines and waste management will be considered as potential money-makers for Highland Council as it tries to make itself more “business-minded”.
Turning empty land owned by the council into renewable energy is among proposals to generate income, but leading councillors say nothing has been ruled out.
This comes after a year-long review of the council’s structure, sparked by massive cuts to the local authority’s staff and budget last year.
Councillor Isobel McCallum, the council’s convenor and re-design board chairwoman, said nothing would be axed at this stage, despite initial fears that the council would stop providing some services.
“We need to think a lot more about opportunities for income as lots of other councils have,” she said.
“Renewable energy is one area we are going to look at. We looked at turbines at the Longman at one time.
“It might not happen but we have to look at all areas of the renewable energy spectrum.”
Plans for a biogas generator at the former Longman dump could be resurrected under the redesign as board vice-chairman Bill Lobban pointed out the massive expense of waste management, which will soon be higher as the Scottish landfill tax is set to increase this year.
Last year the council mooted the idea as a way to make money through generating electricity by harnessing gas naturally produced by decaying waste.
Councillor Lobban said: “We will be taking a closer look at waste and how we deal with it.
“At the moment it is massively costly and our options of sticking rubbish in the ground are coming to an end, we just won’t be allowed to.
“We are not at a stage of knowing what to do with it yet, we are just asking for approval to review waste management.”
The review is only at the proposal stage at the moment and it will be up to the new council to implement following the local government elections in May, although councillors will be asked to endorse the plans at a meeting on Thursday.
And it is hoped the review will be an ongoing process to prevent the need for another massive overhaul in future.
“In some way we need to continue this into the future so we can keep making things better,” said Cllr Lobban.
“If we are being upfront and honest, it was the financial position the council was in that made us do this.”
More decisions will be made locally by area committees under the proposals, in a nod to the previous district councils.
This comes after feedback to the board called for less centralisation to Inverness, although planning and licensing will remain under the power of a council-wide strategic board.
This was welcomed by Cllr McCallum, who said it would help rural communities feel more engaged.
“The structure will be different and better than district councils although it is a bit like that,” she said.
“Nothing will be taken away from Highland Council or what it does but it will be done differently.
“As much decision-making as possible will be made locally. All decisions should be made locally unless there are good reasons not to, whereas before decisions were made centrally unless there was a good reason to make them locally.
“Area committees will become much more important. That is what communities and councillors have been calling for years, especially in rural areas.”