A far north windfarm protest group is pressing Highland Council to make clear how much account is taken of its own renewable energy blueprint in judging turbine proposals.
Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (CWIF) is seeking an answer as part of its renewed challenge to the approval of plans to extend a small-scale scheme at Forss.
CWIF has unsuccessfully called for Renewable Energy Systems’ plans to be put on hold as a result of alleged misinformation given to the council’s Caithness area planning committee.
Planning permission, granted on the chairman’s casting vote after a 3-3 split, was approved last May though work on the site has only just started.
CWIF’s Stuart Young yesterday said it continues to believe the decision should be annulled and a fresh hearing held.
Mr Young’s latest move comes after receiving a reply to CWIF’s formal challenge to the council’s approval for four new turbines to join the existing two at Forss.
The development at the site of the former US communications base was the first commercial venture of its kind in Caithness.
CWIF insists officials were wrong to designate Forss as a preferred site for small-scale wind turbines.
There was some understandable confusion as the meeting took place just over a week after the authority firmed up its renewable energy blueprint.
But CWIF says this is irrelevant as Forss was ranked as only a ‘possible’ development site in the draft strategy and a ‘no-go’ area in the final document.
Dunnet-based Mr Young accuses council chief executive Arthur McCourt of trying to defend the indefensible in his response to CWIF’s formal complaint.
He said: “At no time in the sad progression of the Highland Renewable Energy Strategy was the Forss area considered as a ‘preferred’ area but he persists in defending this position.
“Instead of just saying: ‘We have made a mistake’, he gives us a lot of waffle.”
Mr McCourt has rejected CWIF’s bid to annul approval for the new turbines. Making clear that each application has to be considered on its merits, he said there is no legal basis to quash the committee’s decision and that the Forss planning application was prepared before the council had produced its strategy.
He adds: “If a proposal accords with the development plan and there are no material considerations indicating that it should be refused, permission should be granted.
Mr McCourt said the renewable energy blueprint is used as supplementary guidance to the application of the Highland Structure Plan.
By Iain Grant
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