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Joy as windfarm scheme is refused

Windfarm protesters yesterday celebrated the knockback for a major scheme in Caithness.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing ruled against the proposed 30-turbine development at Spittal Hill because of the impact it would have on local residents.

It is one of the few occasions where a windfarm has been rejected after being referred to Holyrood.

The 75-megawatt venture was the subject of a public local inquiry after Highland Council supported objections to the siting of the turbines on land, just off the A9 Thurso to Inverness road, near the village of Spittal.

Endorsing government reporter Roger Croft’s recommendation, Mr Ewing said the scheme was unacceptable.

He said: “The impact of this proposed windfarm on the landscape and on those who live closest to it is too great.”

Stuart Young, chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (CWIF), said: “This is a fantastic day. Had this one gone through, there would be no hope of challenging any new windfarm proposal anywhere in the country.”

While delighted with the announcement, Mr Young said CWIF and other concern groups have a major task ahead in fighting many other large-scale onshore turbine schemes still in the planning process.

He said: “Maybe this verdict is an indication of the changing mood of the country with people increasingly rising up against clusters of these huge machines which are cropping up all over the place.”

Spittal Hill Wind Farm Ltd was set up by brothers Tom and Steve Pottinger, who own Banniskirk Farm, one of eight pieces of ground where the turbines were earmarked to stand on.

Tom Pottinger said: “We’ll have to carefully read the Reporter’s report and the minister’s findings and then consider our position.”

The brothers are in the throes of commissioning a 21-turbine windfarm on Tom Pottinger’s home farm at Westfield.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland also welcomed the news claiming it would have had an adverse impact on important populations of whooper swans and greylag geese.