Published: 23/10/2013 15:15 - Updated: 23/10/2013 15:23

Ministers urged to protect Reay from wind farm

Written byHugh Ross

A decision on the wind farm rests with Scottish ministers.
A decision on the wind farm rests with Scottish ministers.

PLANS for a towering wind farm near Reay – which would have the tallest turbines in the Highlands – have been blasted by councillors who have urged the Scottish Government to reject the giant scheme.

Fears were also expressed at a planning committee meeting yesterday that Infinergy Ltd’s Limekiln development of 24 turbines – of which 15 would be up to 139 metres tall – could overwhelm the area.

And one far north councillor demanded an urgent review of the growing number of wind farms being built in Caithness, describing the current situation as "bloody nonsense".

The heavily criticised development had attracted fierce opposition, with hundreds of objectors warning it would overshadow the village.

Highland Council’s north plan-ning committee, including Caithness and Sutherland members George Farlow, Donnie Mackay and Bill Fernie agreed to raise an objection.

Mr Farlow said it was a "shocking" application and claimed the developer "had taken a flyer" with it.

The final decision rests with Edinburgh-based Scottish Ministers because the scheme has a potential capacity of 75 megawatts.

Mr Mackay urged the committee to launch a county-wide review of turbines and said Caithness was providing above and beyond the renewable energy targets.

"We have wind turbines all over the county – I just think it is a bloody nonsense," he said.

Mr Farlow said Infinergy’s scheme gave a bad name to good wind farm applications and warned it could ruin the attractive village.

Mr Bremner told the committee his first thoughts on the turbines when he saw the proposed height was: "Wow! These are big."

The Caithness landward councillor tabled a successful amendment that the wind farm would have a significant detrimental effect on the area.

"What the developer has put forward is of such a vast scale, the landscape has no room," said Mr Bremner, who questioned why Scottish Natural Heritage had not objected.

Mr Fernie claimed house values could fall if the turbines went up and as many of the local community were employed at Dounreay, which edges closer to complete closure, he warned they could suffer a "double whammy" over the next decade.

More than 500 people – many of whom live in Caithness – had objected, saying the turbines were too tall and would create a noise.

Planners, who recommended no objection was raised, admitted the farm might impact on a number of nearby designated sites, protected species, valued habitats and other ecological interests.

However, they felt the distance between existing houses and the turbines, the impact from turbines, their visual movement, overshadowing or noise would not be considered to be at a sufficiently adverse level.

A mixture of turbine sizes is proposed, with maximum tip heights of 126 metres for the other nine turbines.

Infinergy has highlighted its commitment to a community benefit fund worth £9 million over the 25-year life span of the wind farm.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr Bremner’s bid to have Whirlwind Renewables’ Achlachan wind farm plan for five turbines at Spittal rejected was narrowly defeated after a vote was tied 5-5.

Mr Bremner said the new 110-metre high turbines would have a significant effect on the Westerdale, Mybster and Spittal communities.

"They will stand very proud and prominent in the landscape," said Mr Bremner, who warned of a "cluttering effect" because of the other wind turbines in the area.

But his amendment was defeated on the casting vote of committee chairwoman and Ross-shire councillor Isobel McCallum.

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