A plan to build a £30 million wind farm at Stroupster has been decisively rejected by voters in the area covered by Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council.
A ballot which was initiated by the community council and organised by Electoral Reform Services resulted in 801 people taking part – a participation rate of 63.2 per cent. Of those who voted, 491 (61.3 per cent) opposed the development while 310 (38.7 per cent) backed it. A total of 1267 ballot papers were issued.
The vote took place after a public meeting was held in Auckengill Hall in October at which representatives on both sides of the debate presented their arguments.
Freswick-based writer Murray Watts, who spoke against the npower renewables proposal at the meeting, said yesterday he was delighted with the outcome.
“It is a significant majority and underlines the strength of feeling in the community,” Mr Watts said, though he stressed that the issue is not about wind farms as such but about where they are sited.
“It is not a vote against wind farms but a vote for the future of this area,” said Mr Watts, who is confident that the planning authority will listen to the views expressed when considering the company’s application.
He said there was a place for renewable energy in Caithness but felt wind farms had to be dealt with in “a sensitive way” and one which would not damage a unique landscape.
A spokeswoman for npower renewables described the ballot as “encouraging”, with almost 39 per cent of those who voted supporting the scheme.
“Out of the 1267 ballot papers sent out, 37 per cent chose not to vote, and in our view these 466 people are potential supporters,” she said. “We remain convinced that this wind farm provides a world-class site in Scotland for wind energy generation and we await the decision of the planning committee.”
Commenting on the ballot outcome yesterday, community council chairman John Green said: “This is an excellent result for local democracy. A response rate of over 60 per cent shows that local people really do value the opportunity to express their opinions on matters that will directly affect their own community.
“We as a community council are very grateful to all those who took part in the debate, whether at the public meeting, through the press and other media, or perhaps most importantly in informal discussions in the community.
“I think it is fair to say that by the time the ballot was carried out voters really had a very good understanding of the issues involved, and this vote records the genuinely well-informed opinion of the local community.”
Mr Green went on to say that the community council would now be making a formal submission to the local planning authority to inform officials of the result of the ballot.
As previously reported, the public meeting at Auckengill heard that the £30m wind farm would create local jobs and give the Caithness economy a major boost, but opponents said the 12 turbines in such a prominent location would damage tourism and result in “one of the finest views in Caithness being lost for a generation”.
n Highland councillors are being asked to renew planning permission for the existing 50-metre wind gauge at Spittal Hill.
Members of the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Planning Applications and Review Committee will decide on Tuesday whether to approve the application submitted by Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd – a company set up by brothers Tom and Steven Pottinger.
Nine letters of objection, from seven separate addresses, have been lodged with the planning authority. They are concerned that the wind gauge could be a precursor to a wind-farm development.
However, in his report, Highland Council planning official Andrew Parker says that granting renewal consent does not imply that a wind-farm development will be acceptable at this location.
The proposed wind gauge would be used to obtain meteorological data at the site for another two years. The information would then be used by the developers to assess the suitability of the site for potential wind energy developments.
The application has been recommended for approval, subject to conditions.
By Gordon Calder
16 November 2007
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