A campaign group which is fighting plans for a wind farm on Nigg Hill in Easter Ross is furious by the “cavalier” approach of the developers after they erected an unauthorised test mast on the controversial site.
Nigg Awareness Group (NAG) claims that wind energy company Falck Renewables has put up an anemometer test mast on top of Nigg Hill to test wind capacity for a proposed £10 million wind farm – without bothering to apply for planning permission.
Nigg resident Peter Grant, a member of NAG, said: “I was astounded when a friend who was up Nigg Hill photographing geese told me there was a test mast on top of the hill.
“I contacted the local planning department in Dingwall and this week we heard from them that no planning permission had been given for the mast and that instructions had been issued to remove it within two days. We don’t know whether or not they have complied with this instruction.
“All that we could extract was that West Coast Energy, who front up for Falck Renewables, had maintained that an agricultural loophole had made the erection of the mast possible without seeking planning permission.
“It is well known that you have to obtain planning consent for wind test masts yet here is a developer of several wind farms, which have already been approved and who should know better, taking such a cavalier approach.
“In addition, they are required to attach markers on these masts to reduce the possibility of bird strikes and they haven’t done that, and there are thousands of geese and other birds going over Nigg Hill at this time of the year.”
Highland Council’s Dingwall planning office told the North Star that the matter was being dealt with by the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross planning office in Dornoch. However, nobody was available for comment there yesterday.
Fraser Mackenzie, project manager with Atmos Consulting Ltd, the new name for West Coast Energy who are preparing the environmental impact assessment on behalf of Falk Renewables, said: “We temporarily erected a 10-metre pole for recording wind speeds and temperatures during a specific time period as part of the preparation of the environmental statement.
“We did not seek planning permission to erect the pole, which was in only place for a number of weeks before being removed.”
Mr Mackenzie said the planning application for the wind farm was due to be submitted in the next few weeks.
Falck Renewables announced in June plans for a five-turbine, 10 megawatt output, wind farm on Nigg Hill, sparking community protests. Local residents say the 125-metre high turbines, skylining a hill that is 200 metres high, will be highly prominent and create a blot on the landscape.
An earlier proposal by Shell Wind and Energy Ltd in 2003 for a wind farm on Nigg Hill also proved highly controversial. Although Shell erected wind test masts – with the benefit of planning permission – it subsequently removed them and never proceeded with the wind farm proposal.
By Jackie MacKenzie
8 December 2007
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