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Calls for help for Scottish communities threatened by ‘ring of steel’ wind turbines

Scottish communities are becoming “overwhelmed” by applications for wind farms and feel increasingly powerless to fight against them, campaigners have warned.

Many feel they are being surrounded by a “ring of steel” due to the number and giant scale of turbines being built around them.

Scotland is already home to more than half of all operational wind turbines of over 100kw in the UK – 4,394 of the total 8,670.

And there are thousands more being built or planned – at least 1,700 to date, according to Scottish Government figures released through a Freedom of Information request.

Some are extensions for consented schemes yet to be built, with turbines among the tallest in the world.

Residents in many places are feeling overcome by the number of developments being proposed and the challenges of mounting opposition.

Now wind farm protest group Scotland Against Spin (SAS) has launched a petition, calling for greater assistance and powers for communities.

Graham Lang, SAS chairman, said: “Communities up and down the country are already struggling to respond to multiple applications simultaneously or consecutively.

“They are left simply overwhelmed and unable to manage, either in terms of the manpower required to scrutinise large technical documents and/or to fund-raise in order to employ professional help in a bid to stop any more monstrous turbines destroying their landscapes and their way of life.”

Highland is the area most affected, followed by Dumfries and Galloway and Argyll & Bute.

Caithness West Community Council has considered seven applications for developments in recent years, coming on top of two existing schemes.

Jillian Bundy, chair of the community council, said: “We do feel overwhelmed, both in dealing with the applications perspective and also because our village, Reay, risks being completely encircled by the infamous ‘ring of steel’.

“We feel powerless against developers.

“There is a democratic deficit in that local people supposedly have a voice in the planning system but their views are consistently disregarded.

“We also do not have the resources at our disposal to compete on a level playing field with the enormity of funding that developers have available for legal support and expert witnesses.”

Another example is Bodinglee in South Lanarkshire, a scheme that could see 62 turbines with tip heights of up to 250m.

It would be the third-largest onshore wind farm in the UK and cover one of the last remaining big open spaces without turbines in the area.

Roberton resident Ginny Bennett is one of those against the plans.

“There should be a mechanism for assessing that it is an unrealistic proposal at an early stage and rejecting it,” she said.

“In the wider community there is a definite feeling that this area has done its bit for renewable energy and already hosts sufficient numbers of turbines.”

Another is the 75-turbine Scoop Hill in Dumfries and Galloway.

Moffat resident and protester Carole Williams said: “If this wind farm is consented it will cover 22 square miles of beautiful lowland hills, including a considerable section of the Southern Upland Way.

“This development would create a wind farm alley the length of the M74. What kind of gateway to Scotland is that?

“We all recognise the challenges of climate change and the need for renewable energy, but this has to be balanced evolution and not at any cost.”