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Local opinions treated ‘with complete disrespect and contempt’ says Reay wind farm protester

A petition against a proposed wind farm development near Reay is being taken to the Scottish Parliament next month.

Retired solicitor Gilian Macpherson, who organised the petition, hopes to have 1000 signatures by then but feels local people’s views are treated “with complete disrespect and contempt”.

She is opposed to plans for wind farms at Limekiln and Drum Hollistan, claiming they will be too near the village, impact on the popular North Coast 500 route and adversely affect wildlife, including nesting golden eagles.

Mrs Macpherson says there is widespread opposition to the plans which would involve a total of 38 turbines up to 140 metres high – higher than the ones at the Baillie wind farm and taller than the London Eye.

She took the petition to the Caithness County Show in Thurso last month and gathered a lot of signatures.

“Most of them were local people but some were visitors and others had Caithness connections,” she said. “I have also taken the petition to the Westfield area, Glengolly, Thurso and into Melvich and got signatures there. I would hope to have 1000 by next month.”

Mrs Macpherson explained the plan for Limekiln was previously refused planning permission by Highland Council, but was then resubmitted and linked with the application for Drum Hollistan.

Reay Area Windfarm Opposition Group and the John Muir Trust oppose the plans. A public local inquiry was held earlier this year, although the inquiry reporter’s recommendation is still to be announced.

It was expected the report would be completed by September, although that date may be delayed as a golden eagle’s nest has been found at the site.

Mrs Macpherson is unhappy with the planning procedures that govern wind farms and says the Scottish Government has the power to overrule a refusal by a local council.

“We feel we do not have a voice here,” she said. “The government can overrule what local people want and we feel we are treated with complete disrespect and contempt.”

The Limekiln application is for 21 turbines, up to 139 metres high, while the Drum Hollistan application is for 17 turbines of up to 140 metres. In March, at the public session at the end of the public local inquiry, residents warned that Reay would end up encircled by “a ring of steel”.

More than 80 people attended the session in the village hall which followed six days of evidence in Thurso.