The first batch of ballot papers were yesterday dispatched to residents who live closest to the proposed site of a contentious 21-turbine wind farm west of Thurso.
Caithness West Community Council is surveying the 1000-or-so electors in its patch to find out whether they support or oppose the 57.5 megawatt development.
The timing is particularly sensitive as Baillie Wind Farm Ltd’s scheme for farmland near Shebster is being tabled at a Highland Council hearing next month.
The community council is among the objectors to the proposal, which would add to the existing nearby six-turbine cluster at Forss. But it is pledging to reflect the feedback of the vote in its representation.
At its latest meeting, there was support for seeking to break down the results of the ballot into geographic zones.
Member Rhona Manson believed respondents should be asked to indicate how far they live from the proposed site.
“People who live right beside it would obviously be directly affected,” she said. “There are going to be others in the community council area who wouldn’t be regularly travelling past it or seeing it.
“It would be really interesting if we could get a breakdown of this.”
Chairman Bill Brown said this could be divided into those living within two kilometres, within five kilometres and over five kilometres.”
“If it’s possible to do zoning, we will,” he said.
Local Highland councillor David Flear believed the ballot was a good idea though he warned against overcomplicating the paper.
He said: “Some people were unhappy that the public meeting held into the wind-farm proposal didn’t properly represent the views of everyone in the area. This is a way of giving everyone the chance to register their opinion.”
Mr Flear added: “You will have to stand by the result of the ballot.”
The exercise is costing the community council over £300.
People have until December 31 to reply, after which the count will be carried out at the Highland Council’s offices by community councillor Derrick Milnes and ward manager David Sutherland.
Mr Milnes yesterday said the ballot paper contains a straight “Yes” or “No” question.
The idea of incorporating a tick-the-box on proximity to the wind-farm site had not been taken up.
He said all the papers should be sent out by the end of this week.
Anyone who does not receive one who believes they should have done, can contact him on 01847 811505.
The hearing of the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross planning applications and review committee will take place in the Ross Institute, Halkirk, on January 15.
14 December 2007
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