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Pupils at risk from school turbines claim

Highland Council’s policy of erecting 6kw micro wind turbines at schools is putting pupils at risk, a north-west Sutherland woman has claimed.

Dr Stephanie James, of The Smithy House, Stoer, wrote this week highlighting her concerns to the authority’s top official, chief executive Alistair Dodds.

She fears it is only a matter of time before there is a fatality caused by a turbine malfunction.

Dr James, who has previously contacted planners a number of times about her concerns, decided to take action again after a blade flew off a small domestic turbine situated behind Rhu Stoer Village Hall.

No-one was hurt in the incident which happened at Hogmanay.

Dr James was among a number of people who objected to the erection of both the micro turbine at the eight-pupil Stoer Primary and the one at the village hall.

Planning consent for the Proven WT6000 turbine, mounted on a 15metre column at Stoer school, was granted in April last year. The 6kw turbine has a rotor diameter of 5.5metres.

The 15m high Eoltec Scirocco turbine at the hall was given the go-ahead by planners in November 2010 and erected six months ago.

The council has pursued a policy of erecting turbines either on school buildings or in school grounds in a bid to save money and to boost their green credentials.

A similar turbine at the Rhue Stoer Hall was also given the go-ahead in November 2010 and erected amid much controversy.

In her letter to the chief executive, Dr James points out the failure in November 2009 of a 50metre high wind turbine installed at Raasay School which collapsed and landed in the school playing field.

She claimed that in recent years there had been 66 fatalities with many more injuries in the UK as a result of various wind turbine malfunctions.

She states: “Pieces of blade are documented as travelling up to 1300 metres and blade pieces have gone through roofs and walls of nearby buildings.

“Other serious incidents have occurred through structural failure from poor quality control, lack of maintenance and component failure. As turbines are now being placed in relatively close proximity to buildings, including schools, the accident frequency is expected to rise.”

And she writes: “I consider it can only be a matter of time before a fatality occurs.”

Dr James also claims that “unusual visual and sound data” have been noted recently from the Stoer school turbine.

She has now demanded that Mr Dodds respond within 14 days outlining the steps the authority intends to take to ensure there is not a repeat of a turbine failure such as happened in the case of Rhue Stoer Village Hall.

She concludes: “That the authority gave planning permission for the erection of this potentially lethal structure in such close proximity to humans is in itself a matter of great concern.”

Information provided by the authority shows that turbines have been erected, at a cost of £25,000 each, at nine north schools – Crossroads Primary (Thurso); Castletown Primary; Bower Primary (Wick); Culloden Academy (Inverness); Craighill Primary (Tain); Dornoch Academy; Inver Primary; Stoer Primary and Gairloch High School.

Highland Council did not respond to a request by the Northern Times for a response to Dr James’s claims about the danger presented by the turbines to schoolchildren.

However, in previous correspondence with Dr James, chief executive Alistair Dodds has stated: “The use of wind turbines in school grounds have been subjected to discussions on safety with the council’s education service, the council’s health and safety team and also the Health and Safety Executive and the suitability in a school environment has been determined to be appropriate.”