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

By Iain Grant

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Friday night's meeting of the Pennyland Temporary Laydown Area Information Group. Picture: Mel Roger.
Friday night's meeting of the Pennyland Temporary Laydown Area Information Group. Picture: Mel Roger.

Opposition is mounting to a proposal to create a laydown area for wind farm components in a field on the north-west fringe of Thurso.

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

The nine hectare area, off the A836, between the Pennyland and Burnside housing estates would be deployed before the components complete their journey to SSE's new wind farm at Strathy South.

According to Pennyland resident David Bews, the go-ahead would drive a cart and horses through the planning blueprint for the area.

And he fears that the company is gearing up to use the site and the adjoining HGV turning area on a permanent basis.

Mr Bews and four others have got together to help better inform local people about SSE's plans.

They organised a public meeting in Thurso last Friday 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.

Mr Bews focused on the site's designation within the Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan.

It earmarks it for a mix of housing, business, retail and amenity.

"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 the obvious site for the laydown area would be on ground at Scrabster Mains Farm, which is allocated in the local plan 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.

"Have they (SSE) looked at using this or other sites?," he asked.

Mr Bews is concerned that the temporary use being sought of the Pennyland site by the company would end up becoming permanent.

He noted that the turning area, opposite the Weigh Inn, which is on a long term lease to the operators of the Limekiln wind farm in Reay, is being made available to SSE.

He understands that the latter is seeking compulsory purchase powers to take over the turning area.

Mr Bews said: "They are talking about using the laydown area for two years but the fear is it will end up there for the long term."

A pre-planning notice published by SSE indicates it will have a hardstanding storage and crane areas, vehicle access, parking, loading and unloading, and an office together with a new junction.

The company intends to start building the 35-turbine wind farm in the spring. It is holding a second information day about the scheme at the Weigh Inn between 2-7pm on June 19.

SSE Renewables has been contacted for comment.

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