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Villagers in tourist haven split by plan for turbines

Residents living in one of Scotland’s tourist havens yesterday told how proposals for two towering wind turbines in the coastal village had instantly “divided” their community.

Alarm bells sounded at Ullapool, Wester Ross, as news spread that local energy firm, the ironically named Invisible Heating Systems (IHS), had submitted plans for two 80ft wind turbines beside its premises.

The Scottish-Dutch company, which made headlines last week by announcing an intention to build homes for staff struggling to afford property in the area, hopes to erect two turbines on the Morefield industrial estate.

Liz Stewart, a Glasgow-born director of the energy firm she formed with her partner Henk Verweijmeren, said: “The addition of wind turbines here in our office and workshop area will make us completely carbon neutral. If there’s surplus, it can feed into the grid.”

Acknowledging strong local opposition to the recent threat of giant pylons being mooted for the area, she added: “Even in Ullapool, I think they should look at bigger wind turbines, but I know it’s a bit of a local issue because of the bigger things that are going over on the islands and the pylons coming through, that sort of thing.

“It will be an interesting development, but I think it’s something that we do have to address as a community.”

Numerous villagers made it clear yesterday they would object to the proposal.

One woman was concerned that approval would open the floodgates to many turbines being built in an area so far untouched by windfarms. Requesting anonymity, she said: “It is a very small community, and already people are beginning to divide.”

Ewen Scobie, who operates self-catering accommodation and an outdoor activities business, said: “It’s unbelievable that wind turbines are being considered anywhere, but especially on the west coast. Ullapool relies heavily on tourism brought about by its unique, unspoiled landscape.

“Visitors travel this far north to escape from the clutters of industrialisation. What we have here is precious, and should be conserved at all costs.”

Bed-and-breakfast owner Ike Gibson said: “I’m certainly opposed to the idea. It would ruin a lovely village. The idea that we can control climate change is about as far-fetched an idea as you can possibly have. Climate is going to change whether humans do anything about it or not. It’s always changed ever since the Earth began.”

Praising IHS’s success as a green energy business, the Lochbroom councillor, Jean Urquhart, said: “It will be subject to a planning committee decision in due course, and I’ll look forward to that debate.”

By Iain Ramage

thisisnorthscotland.co.uk

7 April 2007