September 23, 2006

Protesters challenge windfarm expansion

Campaigners have challenged Highland Council’s decision to approve an extension to a controversial Caithness windfarm.

Renewable Energy Systems has been allowed to add four more turbines to the existing two at the entrance to New Park’s technology park at Forss.

The area planning committee agreed the extension after Graeme Smith exercised his chairman’s casting vote in favour of the scheme following a tied 3-3 vote.

The Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (CWIF) wants a re-run, claiming councillors were given incorrect and incomplete information by officials.

It has lodged a formal complaint to council chief executive Arthur McCourt over material contained within the report prepared for the committee.

The development, near the Dounreay atom plant, was approved despite objections from New Park and local residents.

CWIF spokesman Stuart Young said the officials’ advice contradicted the authority’s own guidelines on green energy planning because Forss is not considered a “possible or preferred area” for small-scale windfarm development.

He said officials also failed to highlight that the proposed extension, under the guidelines, should be at least three miles from the existing turbines and that councillors should have been told of potential community benefit from the development.

Mr Smith said: “I believe due process was followed. The committee, collectively, came to a decision based on policy and the material considerations presented to them on the day.” A council spokeswoman added: “We have received the letter from CWIF and we will get back to them in due course.”

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