A local campaign group’s opposition to a plan to site wind turbines at Spittal Hill is being supported by Castletown and District Community Council.
That was decided at a meeting of community councillors in the Drill Hall on Thursday night after the subject had been raised by chairman Douglas Fraser.
He suggested backing the stance taken by the Spittal Windfarm Opposition Group as he felt the development would be “in the wrong place” and too close to houses. Mr Fraser maintained that the location was inappropriate and also claimed there could be a loss of amenity arising from the 30 turbines proposed at the site.
He said the rotor blades make a noise as they turn and pointed out that he knew people who felt vibrations from wind farms as the bases are bolted to the rock. Mr Fraser also argued that turbines so close to a residential area could interfere with television and radio reception. In addition, they would be visually prominent.
“I think we should support the Spittal group in its stance as this development is in the wrong place and the loss of amenity would be unacceptable,” Mr Fraser said.
He also felt Caithness has “done its bit” regarding wind farms. “We have our 20 per cent and more,” added Mr Fraser, in a reference to the government’s aim of reaching 20 per cent of its energy needs from renewables.
Other community councillors also argued that wind farms should not be built near residential areas.
The proposed development has been lodged by Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd, a company set up by brothers Tom and Steven Pottinger, who own Banniskirk Mains Farm.
The turbines, each standing 110 metres high, are due to occupy 980 hectares of land, all to the east of Spittal Hill. Just two would be sited on Banniskirk Mains, with the rest on ground owned by other landowners.
Tom Pottinger this week responded to the criticisms made by the Castletown community council and said changes have been made to the number, layout and siting of the turbines to try and address public concerns.
He pointed out that the proposed development has been subject to a number of detailed studies over the past three years and said the results, together with feedback from a public exhibition last summer, have led to four revisions. These include a decision to site all the turbines to the east of the hill, away from the A9, where there is not a lot of habitation.
In landscape and visual terms, Mr Pottinger said detailed studies had been carried out by consultants and the only view where there could be a significant impact would be from Bower down towards Spittal Hill.
He explained that photomontages of the planned development have been produced professionally and are available at a number of local venues including libraries and Highland Council planning offices.
Regarding noise, Mr Pottinger stressed that developers have to follow guidelines produced by the World Health Organisation and pointed out that noise levels are scrutinised by the local authority’s environmental health department.
He described claims about vibration as a myth. “Any vibrations do not travel any distance at all and are at such a low frequency that they are not picked up,” he said.
Regarding television and radio interference, Mr Pottinger said there is intensive scrutiny on these issues and pointed out that wind farms are designed not to interfere with these signals.
He also said that the Spittal Hill development would create 100 jobs for between one year and 18 months and four to five engineering jobs in the longer term.
Mr Pottinger, who lives at Baillie Farm, Westfield, revealed that he is looking at the possibility of a tourism-related development on the wind-farm site and may consider a viewing platform on the top of a turbine.
Mr Pottinger said discussions are under way with affected communities about financial spin-offs from the venture. He revealed that the community benefit pay-outs could involve an annual payment of £170,000.
Two of the turbine sites are in the Halkirk Community Council area, with the remainder in the area covered by Watten Community Council.
The £83 million application by Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd will be determined by Scottish Executive ministers. The closing date for representations was June 1.
Meanwhile, Stuart Young of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum has claimed the application is significant. “It is particularly important because it flies in the face of almost all planning safeguards laid down in local and national policy,” he said.
“If this is approved then developers will be able to show that there is almost no defensible reason for refusal of almost any wind-farm application in Highland, and there is a long queue in the wings.”
By Gordon Calder
6 June 2007
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