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Councillor echoes safety fears over micro machines

Fears about the possible safety threat to children from wind turbines in Highland schools saw a decision on two new schemes put on ice on Tuesday.

Highland councillors were not satisfied about the protection afforded to pupils if the new turbines were built in Inverness and Nairn and instructed officials to carry out risk assessments before they can be considered for approval again.

It comes as schools across the regions embark on a project to construct “micro” wind turbines, a policy backed by the Highland Council because it saves cash and boosts green credentials.

However, the two latest planning turbine applications have now been deferred after councillors raised concerns about the risks of pupils being struck by a malfunctioning machine.

Inshes Primary School and Nairn Academy had both sought approval to put one up in their grounds and the proposals came before the local authority’s south planning applications committee in Inverness.

However, committee member Councillor Donnie Kerr refused to back them because there was no reference to a fence or exclusion zone in either project.

Mr Kerr voiced concerns that a child could be struck by a malfunctioning turbine and highlighted the closure of Raasay Primary School near Skye three years ago after a turbine collapsed in the school’s playground.

He was uneasy about the structures being so close to playgrounds and claimed the turbines could prove a danger after they were in operation for a period of time.

“I do think we have to be careful here, it is paramount that this is a school [Inshes] where we expect our children to be safe,” he said.

“There should be some kind of physical exclusion zone as we all know children don’t go by imaginary lines.”

Nairn Academy wants to build a 10-metre high turbine – its second turbine – which would be 35 metres away from the building.

The Inshes turbine would be built 80 metres from the school.

Mr Kerr (Inverness Central) called for risk assessments to be carried out on both schools. This was supported by the committee which agreed to defer a decision until they have been carried out.

The Raasay incident, which saw the wind blades fall in November 2009, occurred after a contractor had refitted the turbine the wrong way. The equipment itself was in working order.

The committee’s safety concerns comes after a Sutherland woman voiced fears last month that turbines at schools were putting pupils at risk.

Dr Stephanie James, who lives in Stoer, wrote to council chief executive Alistair Dodds and claimed that it was only a matter of time before a child was killed by a turbine malfunction.

Dr James, who opposed the construction of a turbine at Stoer Primary School, complained to Mr Dodds after a blade flew off a small domestic turbine situated behind Rhu Stoer Village Hall.