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U-turn over Pennyland wind turbine laydown area is ‘common sense’, say Thurso campaigners

By Iain Grant

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The u-turn has been welcomed by locals.
The u-turn has been welcomed by locals.

A U-TURN over controversial plans to create a laydown area for wind farm parts in a field on the edge of Thurso has been hailed as “common sense prevailing” by campaigners.

SSE Renewables yesterday (Thursday) announced it was dropping its plans to use a site at Pennyland on the north-west fringe of Thurso.

The sudden U-turn, which came just days after a well-attended public meeting against the plan, delighted opponents who had been gearing up to fight the proposal.

"Common sense has prevailed," said Pennyland resident David Bews, one of an informal protest group behind the recent meeting.

READ MORE: SSE Renewables’ wind farm ‘laydown area’ plan sparks rising opposition in Caithness

"It's really good news and I know there's a lot of people in the town who will be very happy it's not going to happen."

SSE Renewables had been expected to shortly submit a planning application for a temporary base to store the turbine parts after they were shipped to Scrabster.

It had earmarked a nine hectare area, off the A836, between the Pennyland and Burnside housing estates, as a laydown area before they completed their journey to SSE's new wind farm at Strathy South.

The protest group organised a public meeting in Thurso last week, which was attended by about 60.

Concerns were then raised about the nuisance, disruption and traffic bottlenecks likely to be caused during the mobilisation and use of the laydown area.

Speaking after news broke that SSE was dropping its Pennyland plans, Mr Bews said the go-ahead would have driven a cart and horses through the planning blueprint for the area.

He said the Pennyland site is designated within the Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan for a mix of housing, business, retail and amenity use.

"The location is definitely not proposed for industrial use," said the retired Vulcan security worker.#

"The document views Burnside as an extension of Thurso so this would be putting an industrial development inside the town."

Mr Bews said SSE should now go back to the drawing board and ensure their new proposal conforms with the planning blueprint.

He said: "A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into the local plan and it clearly sets out where industrial developments should go.

"If SSE stick with the plan, there will be little to complain about."

Mr Bews previously said the obvious site for the laydown area would be on ground at Scrabster Mains Farm, which is allocated for industrial development.

The 14 hectare site, he understood, is available and has an access via Scrabster Braes to the A836, avoiding the need to use the A9.

A pre-planning notice published by SSE indicated it is seeking a hardstanding storage and crane areas, vehicle access, parking, loading and unloading, and an office.

A SSE spokesperson said yesterday: "SSE Renewables has taken the decision not to pursue the Pennyland laydown area.

"We are now looking at alternative options to accommodate the turbine components as they come in from Scrabster Harbour."

The company intends to start building the 35-turbine wind farm in the spring.

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