A public ballot is being held into npower renewables’ fresh bid to win the go-ahead for a wind farm in north-east Caithness.
The company wants to put up 12 turbines and ancillary facilities on forested land off the A99 at the Hill of Stroupster, near Auckengill.
The scheme was rejected in May of last year by the Highland Council’s now-disbanded Caithness area planning committee. But the company has tabled an almost identical follow-up application for the turbines, which would have a blade-tip height of 113 metres.
Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council is to commission a postal ballot to find out the views of the 1150 or so people in the two parishes.
It will be carried out after the pros and cons of the wind farm have been debated at a public meeting due to be held in Auckengill Hall next month.
Speaking after the community council’s meeting on Wednesday, chairman John Green said they were committed to abide by the outcome of the vote.
“There has not been a lot of public debate about the wind-farm proposal at Stroupster – I wouldn’t say it’s the talk of the parish,” he said.
“It is, however, a very important issue and we hope the public meeting will help give people a flavour of the arguments, both for and against.”
Npower renewables and Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (CWIF) are to be invited to make presentations.
The community council was not formed when the first application for the wind farm was being processed.
Mr Green, who was then Highland councillor for Caithness North-East, supported the unanimous committee decision to refuse the plans.
The cost of the ballot is being paid for by npower renewables but Mr Green stressed this would not compromise its integrity.
He said: “We are asking the Electoral Reform Society to do the ballot so it will be completely independent. We couldn’t afford to fund it.
“The developers are footing the bill, but that won’t in any way affect the outcome. What it does mean is that local people are getting the opportunity to express their views.”
The final decision on the Stroupster plans will be taken by Scottish ministers.
The community council, meanwhile, reaffirmed its policy of not taking a line on wind-farm proposals outwith its area.
A group of CWIF supporters lobbied them to firm up a stance on the current plans for turbine ventures at Durran and Spittal Hill. They claimed these should be on the community council’s agenda as if either or both schemes got the go-ahead the turbines would be clearly seen from parts of Dunnet and Canisbay.
Mr Green said: “We had already taken a decision not to consider schemes from outwith our patch and we reaffirmed that at our meeting.”
By Iain Grant
14 September 2007
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