Villagers in east Caithness have given a resounding welcome to plans to create what would be the Far North’s first community-owned wind farm.
They have voted by over three to one in favour of the scheme to redevelop an area of cleared forest at Rumster.
The community company spearheading the plan has particularly welcomed the 67.3 per cent response rate to the ballot.
A total of 1031 papers were sent out to residents in the Latheron, Lybster and Clyth Community Council area. They were asked whether or not they supported the five-megawatt project earmarked to go ahead on a 40 hectare tract currently owned by the Forestry Commission Scotland.
Of those who responded, a total of 489 (70.4 per cent) voted in favour with 203 (29.3 per cent) against.
There were two spoilt papers in the ballot, with the count carried out by Highland Council ward manager David Sutherland.
Latheron, Lybster and Clyth Community Development Company now has the green light to pursue the plans to erect a maximum of three turbines, each up to 100 metres high.
It claims the development could net about £4 million in electricity sales over its 20-year lifetime. The intention would be to use the windfall to support existing community projects as well as kick-starting new ones.
Company secretary Eric Larnach yesterday welcomed the response rate as much as the vote in favour.
He said: “To be honest, to get that many people inspired to vote, we’re over the moon and would like to thank them for their effort.
“The directors of the company put in a fair bit of effort to encourage people to make their position known and we’re absolutely delighted that so many have chosen to do so.
“We always thought that we were going to get more in favour but we worried whether we would get over 50 per cent to cast their vote, especially given the widespread area which we cover.”
He said the outcome allows the company to move ahead to secure funding to buy the land. The district valuer has put an £80,000 price tag on the land, though North MSP Rhoda Grant has recently claimed that is double what it should cost.
Mr Larnach said: “We need to secure the land before we go any further.”
The company would then start work to carry out an environmental impact assessment – a necessary forerunner of a planning application.
This would include gathering information about the potential impact the development would have on residential amenity, local flora and fauna, and archaeological sites.
It would also be seeking consent to erect an anemometer to gather information about wind speeds at the site.
Mr Larnach acknowledged that the company has a long haul ahead before the plans for the wind farm can be realised.
He said: “If everything went to schedule, we’d be looking at a minimum of three years before it would happen.”
It is the first ballot on a proposed wind farm in Caithness to come out in favour of the development.
21 May 2008
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