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Call for ballot on Baillie wind-farm plan

A ballot should be held to enable people living near the site of a controversial wind-farm proposal in Caithness have their say on the development, according to a local Highland councillor.

David Flear, a Landward Caithness member, made the suggestion after it emerged that the hearing into the Baillie Wind Farm Ltd planning application was to be postponed.

Highland councillors were due to consider the wind-farm scheme at a meeting of the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Planning Applications and Review Committee in Halkirk yesterday.

However, the hearing was put back following complaints made by some objectors who claimed several hundred fellow opponents had been not been notified of the meeting.

Planning officials are recommending that councillors go along with the proposal to erect 21 turbines on farmland near Shebster.

But the application attracted 42 objections which were sent to the Highland Council, with a further 269 lodged with the Scottish Government.

As fully reported in last week’s John O’Groat Journal, Achscrabster resident Bill Brown flagged up the council’s clerical error which meant that only those who contacted the local authority had been notified of the hearing and invited to speak at it.

A statement released by the Highland Council this week said: “The deferral, which has the agreement of the applicant, is to ensure that all persons who are making representations on the application to the Scottish Government will have the opportunity to engage in the council’s hearing process.”

At yesterday morning’s meeting, held at the Ross Institute, Mr Flear suggested that a ballot would be a good way forward for local residents to confirm their stance on the scheme.

Councillors were due to tour the wind-farm site before meeting to consider the plans. The hearing is now expected to take place in January.

Baillie farmer Tom Pottinger, who is spearheading the development, insists the wind farm will not have an undue impact on the landscape and claims opponents are putting at risk a £100,000-a-year-plus community windfall.

There has been one letter of support received by the council, and 13 letters and an 830-name petition of support sent to the Scottish Government.

As the development is over 50 megawatts, the final decision lies with Holyrood.

If the council decides to object, the proposal is likely to end up the subject of a public local inquiry.

By Elizabeth-Anne Mackay

John O’Groat Journal

5 December 2007