A Sutherland bed and breakfast operator has issued a passionate “please don’t” plea to Scottish Government ministers who are considering a wind farm proposal on her doorstep.
Other business people in the area echoed the call this week as word spread that developers had submitted a formal planning application for 18 giant turbines on hills west of Helmsdale.
The local farming partnership hoping to build the scheme on the West Garty Estate at Loth has promised a community benefit fund. The towers, capable of producing 54mw of power when operating at full capacity, would be 394ft (120m) tall. Previous plans, in the mid 1990s, for three separate wind schemes in the area were refused following a public outcry and public inquiry.
The latest proposal is for a sweep of turbines across Creag Riasgain, Culgower Hill and Beinn Mhealaich, 3 miles (5 km) south-west of Helmsdale and 6 miles (10 km) north-east of Brora on what is predominantly heather moorland.
News of the fresh application being submitted has horrified B&B operator Catriona Whitfield, of Culgower House, Loth, who said she had bought the place with the knowledge that the previous wind proposal had been thrown out and now fears for her business if ministers approve it.
“We’re not very happy about it. We have people who stay with us who comment negatively about the number of turbines they’ve seen while travelling round the northern Highlands,” she said. “It’s a big development. We’ll see them from our house.”
Asked for her message to Scottish Government ministers deciding its fate, she said: “Please don’t”.
The developer, Aberdeenshire-based Muirden Energy, carried out an environmental impact assessment of the site in 2012 and submitted a scoping report to Highland Council last year.
Public exhibitions were held in Helmsdale and Brora in October 2013 and January this year. The farming consortium – West Garty Renewables – was granted an electricity generation licence for the site last month and has promised a community fund payout over the 25-year lifetime of the wind farm.
Brora Golf Club has renewed its condemnation of plans for giant turbines in the area. Club president Alistair Risk said: “We were not in favour of the previous planning application. This would also be intrusive, dominating the skyline northwards from the golf club. It would have a detrimental effect on golf tourism business.
“The visiting golfer sees Brora as a place to enjoy a great course in a fabulous environment which has dramatic views which are free from any hint of industry. The proposed development would dominate the views and bring disappointment, thus losing visitors.” Local community councillors are considering their response to the planning proposal.
Muirden Energy project manager Angus Elder said: “While mindful that wind farms can be contentious, West Garty Renewables believes that as a consequence of a detailed design process the wind farm would be sensitive to the local landscape.
“The design has evolved over the past two years following feedback received from consultees, as well as comments received following a number of public exhibitions and questionnaires sent to members of the local communities of Brora and Helmsdale.
“The final design for 18 wind turbines would not only significantly contribute towards the government’s renewable energy targets but would also provide valuable energy to supply the needs of the country over the project’s lifetime.”
Details of the plan are on display at Highland Council’s Drummuie offices in Golspie and Helmsdale Community Centre.
Anyone wanting to comment on the plan should write to the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit, 4th Floor, 5 Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow G2 8LU or online to: firstname.lastname@example.org