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Turbines switched off in fears over safety  

Credit:  John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier, www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk 11 May 2012 ~~

A local campaigner wants wind turbines removed from school grounds, claiming they pose a real risk to children.

Brenda Herrick made the call after it emerged that turbines at six primary schools in Caithness have been switched off amid fears about the potential danger they pose to pupils.

Mrs Herrick has welcomed the move but she now wants to see them taken down altogether. And she claims that some parents are horrified at seeing the structures in school grounds

The Highland Council has switched off the turbines at Bower, Castletown and Crossroads, as well as North Primary, South Primary and Pulteneytown Academy in Wick along with 10 others at schools across the Highlands.

The decision comes after concerns were raised from a number of Highland councillors and members of the public who expressed fears about the danger the turbines pose should they break or collapse.

The local authority has now commissioned independent organisation Building Research Establishment to evaluate all wind turbine installations based on or adjacent to school sites.

Castletown Community Council chairwoman Mrs Herrick, who is also secretary of the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, says the turbines should never have been erected in the first place.

She pointed out that a risk assessment carried out by property risk management manager Stuart Duncan in November last year recommended that an exclusion zone of 50 metres is put in place from where each turbine has been installed.

But the report also details that the one at Castletown Primary School is only 26 metres away from the school building, just over half the recommended distance.

Mrs Herrick said that there is no doubt that the turbines pose a risk to lives and she wants them removed from schools.

“The report clearly recommends a 50m exclusion between where the turbine is placed and children play,” she said.

“Parents who I have spoken to regarding these structures look at them in absolute horror.

“They cannot think why it was thought to be a good idea in the first place.

“If a blade flies off, which can happen, it doesn’t take too much imagination to realise the consequences if it landed in a crowd of pupils.

“There is an attitude that if turbines are regularly maintained or relatively new they will be fine, but that is not true. There is not any guarantee that any make of turbine is completely safe.

“They should never have been placed anywhere near schools and hopefully they will not be switched on again and removed.”

The precautionary measure has been taken ahead of the findings from the full report which is expected in the next few weeks.

Landward Caithness councillor Robert Coghill said that the matter of children’s safety should have been looked into a lot sooner.

“I welcome the decision but I am very disappointed it has taken the Highland Council so long to get to this stage,” he said.

“It is obvious there is a safety issue and safety has to be the first priority.”

Schools across the Highlands had embarked on schemes to construct micro turbines, backed by the local authority, because they are said to save cash and boost energy credentials.

Depute chief executive and director of housing and property Steve Barron said that despite the turbine shutdown the Highland Council is still committed to renewable energy schemes. “The review will focus on reports from the Building Research Establishment which will provide independent assessments for each school site,” he said. “It is important to note the continued commitment of the council to reducing carbon emissions and energy costs through the use of renewable energy technologies. The deployment of wind turbines forms an important part of our plans to meet challenging national targets for carbon reduction. Following the proper assessment of risks, selection of appropriate locations and deployment of protective measures we intend to continue with our turbine programme.”

Source:  John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier, www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk 11 May 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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