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Fears over playground turbines

Children will be put at risk by a council’s decision to restart wind turbines standing in school grounds, it was claimed yesterday.

The turbines were turned off earlier this year as fears grew that youngsters could be harmed if they malfunctioned or collapsed. They will now be reactivated – in some cases with new fencing and other measures in place.

Councillors in the Highland area voiced their anger after the decision was taken by officials without reference to them.

Almost all of the region’s turbines were halted in May because of community concerns about a series of incidents around the UK, in which blades broke off or caught fire in high winds.

A risk assessment followed and the council confirmed yesterday that most of the turbines would restart next month.

Earlier this year, a Scottish Daily Mail investigation found 14 councils – nearly half of Scotland’s 32 local authorities – had 24 functioning school-based turbines.

A spokesman for Highland Council said: ‘We have completed a risk assessment of wind turbines located in school grounds, which confirms safe operation.’

The council says after final service checks are carried out, the turbines will be ‘re-energised on a school-by-school basis during November’.

The council has concluded that the turbines can operate safely at wind speeds up to 134mph. But Highland Council housing and property director Steve Barron said: ‘Applying a further safety margin, the council will ensure that no turbine is operational in wind speeds exceeding 100mph.’ The council also insisted that procedures would be in place to ensure that turbines are ‘isolated and made safe before extreme conditions prevail’.

Inverness independent councillor Donnie Kerr, who first raised concerns, was unconvinced. ‘I am disappointed that I had to learn of this through a press release,’ he said.

Fellow city councillor Jim Crawford was equally angry that elected members did not have the final say.

He pointed out that tiny playgrounds at many schools meant it would be difficult to ensure an adequate safety zone.

‘From a layperson’s point of view, I would have thought anything within close proximity to a school had to be 100 per cent assured,’ he said.

‘If these things are operating at speeds exceeding 100mph – and we’ve known that some of these have actually broken – that’s very scary. A little fence round the bottom isn’t going to keep children out of harm’s way.’