HIGHLAND Council planners have been accused of trying to slip small-scale wind farms under the radar in an effort to meet Scottish Government targets of producing all of the country’s electricity through renewables by 2020.
Residents who live close to the site of a proposed development to erect a 67m 900KW wind turbine near the summit of Olrig Hill – the highest hill in east Caithness – have blasted the authority for failing to notify them about the application.
The issue was brought to their attention when one resident posted leaflets through the letter boxes of properties that would be affected, despite a notice being published in last week’s
Residents have had a week to post their objections on the Highland Council website but argue they should have been notified before.
Charlie Fowler, of Hillcrest, Weydale, lives 700m away from Olrig Hill. He said if the turbine is installed, it will be visible from as far away as Watten.
Mr Fowler said due to the widespread effect the development could have, planners should have notified nearby residents by post, with more time to respond.
"I was only aware of the application when a leaflet was dropped through my letter box by another nearby resident – we had received no notification from the planning department," he said.
"I might live 700m away from the development but because of its 120ft height and being placed on top of the hill it will impact the whole of northern Caithness.
"Small-scale wind turbine developments appropriately placed are a good thing but this particular turbine, despite being an individual application, will spoil an area of the landscape and seems highly inappropriate.
"There have been a number of cases in Caithness where turbines have been placed that have not given consideration to the beauty of the surrounding area.
"I would agree with the opinion that small-scale turbine developments are slipping under the radar as larger turbine developments are being promoted but you have to also consider what is large scale.
"This turbine would be as big as any other in the county and from a wider community point I am concerned developments such as these will reduce the ability of Caithness to attract tourism post-Dounreay.
"This is another area of Caithness that will be dominated by a massive industrial structure."
Ben MacGregor, of Curlew Cottage, Weydale, notified local residents by sending the leaflets when he first discovered the application.
He feels Highland Council is guilty of slipping small-scale developments under the radar by failing to notify affected residents.
"I put leaflets through people’s door, not advising them either way but to tell them it was being applied for," he said.
"Residents were left shell-shocked that they had not been notified by this development, saying they should have been told by planners.
"Views will be spoiled, house values will go down and noise will also become an issue if developments such as these continue to go ahead.
"It is likely these applications are being slipped under the radar and people are only realising it is happening when they have little time to object."
Highland Council explained that when an application is received, all third parties whose land falls within 20m of an application site boundary are notified by them, assuming there is a property on the land that can have a letter sent to it.
It said in the cases where there are no properties within 20m it instead places an advert in the Groat to notify residents.
A spokeswoman said all parties required to be notified by law were notified and rejected the claim small-scale applications are being slipped under the radar.
"All planning applications are subject to statutory advertisement and notification procedures; the fact that an application may be ‘local’ rather than ‘major’ or ‘national’ does not mean that notification is done away with.
"The advertisement and notification requirements for small-scale planning applications are more often than not identical to the requirements for large-scale planning applications."
Highland Council stated the best way to be kept informed about applications is to check its website or the local newspaper.