March 28, 2012

Demand for urgent review on wind farms

John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier, 28 March 2012

A Caithness councillor has called for the number of wind farms being built in the county to be urgently reviewed after the Highland Council gave the go-ahead for nine further turbines at the site of a Christmas tree plantation.

Danny Miller was granted permission to construct the wind farm with 101-metre-high turbines at Wathegar Farm, Bilbster, near Wick, by the local authority’s North planning applications committee in Inverness on Tuesday.

Permission has already been granted for five other turbines on the farm, while six others at nearby Achairn and Flex Hill are already in operation.

Consent was given despite 46 objections and fears one large wind farm of 23 turbines will be created and the Wick to Georgemas corridor will be dominated by the energy schemes.

There are six wind farms within 37 miles of the site, another seven are under construction and 11 are being considered by the council.

The decision left committee member and Thurso councillor Donnie Mackay unhappy and he claimed the area is now awash with turbines which are springing up “like mushrooms”.

He warned the proliferation of wind farms could kill the area’s tourism industry and urged the council or Scottish Government to look into their impact.

The new turbines will sit in the forestry where Christmas trees had been grown. “The tourists won’t come to Caithness if we keep on building wind farms,” said Mr Mackay.

“I feel that we have to have a review of wind turbines in Caithness, this is the way to go forward.

“We have to do something, even the single turbines which are going up, they are just coming up like mushrooms, I would like a review as soon as possible.”

His comments come hot on the heels of Councillor Ian Ross, the outgoing chairman of the council’s planning, environment and development committee, who warned last week that the Highlands will reach capacity for large wind farms in five years’ time.

However, committee chairman Councillor David Chisholm (Dingwall and Seaforth) said it is not within its remit to carry out a review but decide on the application’s own merits.

Landward Caithness councillor Willie Mackay said the turbines application from Mr Miller, of Netherton Farm, had “ticked all the boxes” while Wick councillor Graeme Smith denied a single corridor of turbines would be created.

The council’s principal planner, Ken McCorquodale, said the site fell within an area designated for large wind-farm developments by the council’s draft onshore energy developments policy which was only approved last week.

He added there had been no findings from studies carried out that wind farms had an impact on the tourism industry and the site was not popular with visitors at present.

Both Tannach and District and Watten community councils supported the application, and 47 letters of support were sent.

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