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‘Over-development risks reputation for beautiful landscape’

There are currently 227 operational wind turbines in the Caithness area.

If all the proposals currently in the pipeline win approval there will be close to 500, to say nothing of applications still to come.

Now it is emerging that developers are applying to extend their 25-year contracts to 40 years, and to “re-power” turbines, which could see them reach a far higher 650ft.

Independent councillor for Thurso and north-west Caithness Matthew Reiss says he is depressed and increasingly angry about the situation.

He said: “At the moment there’s a buffer zone for turbines of just over a mile from residential areas.

“Now we’re starting to see applications for them to be renewed and re-powered with much bigger turbines, but there’s no suggestion of the buffer zone being increased to give people more protection.

“The first minister has quite clearly said there’s to be no veto for the public on renewable energy projects, but I find this profoundly undemocratic.

“I’m not a political councillor but I’ve come to the conclusion recently as the decisions have become more and more unfair, that it’s my responsibility speak out.”

Regarding Golticlay, Mr Reiss said wildcats had been spotted in the area, but even this fact had seemed to count for nothing.

He said: “They are arguably the most iconic species in Scotland, and on the brink of extinction.

“I personally went to SNH HQ in Inverness and pleaded for some money to be given to do a survey of Golticlay site.

“But the exact phrase I got back was that Caithness was not a priority area for wildcats and therefore nothing is going to be done.”

Mr Reiss is also concerned about the negative impact on tourism from wind farm over-development.

He said: “There is a genuine risk that Caithness will get a reputation as being an area that did once have a reputation for being intrinsically beautiful and different from anywhere else in the Highlands, but it’s been lost.

“Caithness people are very reserved and reluctant to speak out, but one very elderly gentleman said to me: ‘Please Mr Reiss, can you do anything you can to stop that windfarm?

“‘It’s my village and its beautiful and I don’t want it spoiled’.”