A CAMPAIGNER has blasted the decision of a wind-farm developer to make its deliveries of equipment during summer, claiming they will be detrimental to the tourist industry.
Caithness Windfarm Information Forum secretary Brenda Herrick said plans to transport parts for Baillie Wind Farm from Scrabster harbour to a holding area at the former Dounreay airfield will cause havoc for tourists.
Her comments come after Baillie Wind Farm Limited took its first delivery of 33 blades from the harbour during a three-day operation that began on Monday and is due to be completed today.
Local campaigners are concerned that in the next few weeks a further delivery of 30 blades will be made together with five more shiploads containing sections for the 65-metre towers along with the tower top housings for the turbine’s gearbox and other equipment.
Mrs Herrick said tourism is one of the most important industries in the Far North and is worried the delivery of the equipment will have a negative impact on local businesses.
"This is supposed to be one of the best years we have had for cruise ships coming to dock in the area and see for themselves what Caithness has to offer," she said. "The road that they will be using is considered to be a major tourist road yet it is not a particularly large road either.
"If they are going to be travelling down the road with equipment that is 40 metres long at only 15 mph it will obviously cause major havoc.
"We originally thought that the deliveries were due to be made in the autumn but it has been brought forward and I’m not sure if enough thought has been put into this to take tourism into account."
Each of the 33 blades was due to be escorted by police on the A9 port road and A836 transfer route to the secure temporary storage site at the airfield.
The blades will then be taken for erection at Baillie Hill – work that is due to commence in August.
Baillie Wind Farm Ltd is a joint venture between European energy company Statkraft and landowners Tom and Steve Pottinger.
Erection of the 21-turbine Baillie Wind Farm is expected to be completed this autumn with the project feeding power into the grid by November and fully commissioned by early next year.
Ongoing development of the project has involved an on-site workforce of up to 40 construction workers and engineers.
A spokesman for Baillie Wind Farm Ltd said there are no set dates for further deliveries at present, but explained it will aim to carry them out with the least amount of disruption caused.
"Each of the short delivery phases is planned to cause minimum disruption, entailing only a small number of lorries, with no long convoys, and is timed to avoid busy road conditions," he said.
"We look forward to the much longer-term benefits to the Caithness economy, community and environment after this short-term element of the construction stage is completed."
The firm says that once the wind farm is operational, it will generate an expected £100,000 annually into a West Caithness Community Fund for local initiatives. A further £25,000 a year will also be injected into a new business development fund managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.