Published: 21/09/2006 00:00 - Updated: 29/11/2011 16:57

Wind farm blasted as 'step too far'

Representatives from North British Windpower Ltd at this week's presentation of their plans in Bettyhill Village Hall (left to right) chairman Christopher Wilkins, development analyst Matthew Burnett and senior engineer Graham Irwin.
Representatives from North British Windpower Ltd at this week's presentation of their plans in Bettyhill Village Hall (left to right) chairman Christopher Wilkins, development analyst Matthew Burnett and senior engineer Graham Irwin.

A large 22-turbine wind farm planned for the north Sutherland coast by an Edinburgh power company has been slammed as a "step too far" by one concerned local resident. The householder, who did not want to be named, said the proposed £40 million development on Skelpick and Rhifail Estates, near Bettyhill, would be a massive intrusion in the area. He said: "The turbines themselves are massive. The measurements quoted for them were in metres - around 125 metres in height from blade to tip - which made the turbines seem quite innocuous, but that is nearly 410 feet which is enormous. "The wind farm will be an intrusion on the skyline in Bettyhill and will be visible for miles and miles to anyone up at plateau level. "While I am in favour of wind farms and do not mind the development being in that location, I feel maybe it is a step too far." He added that the community would be better to follow the example of Durness where the local development group is actively progressing a plan to set up a small three-turbine wind farm. He said: "My thoughts on it are that the major beneficiaries of a wind farm this size will be the estate and the company involved. The community benefit is very, very small. "It would be much better for the community to form its own wind farm company and to run maybe three turbines, and out of these three turbines it would get far more benefit than it ever would from going hand in glove with a company of this size and power." The local resident was speaking after attending a public exhibition on the wind farm plans held at Bettyhill Village Hall on Tuesday. The energy company behind the scheme, Edinburgh-based North British Windpower (NBW), erected exhibition boards with detailed pictures of the proposed development and also had a computer-generated model enabling people to see if the wind farm would affect the view from their own homes. The site for the development is on the plateau to the south and east of the escarpments overlooking Bettyhill and the River Naver, and in a similar landscape of rocky peat-land south of the A836 in the vicinity of Kirtomy. The entire area is under crofting tenure with 17 turbines on Bettyhill Common Grazing and five on Kirtomy Common Grazing. The crofters with rights to the grazings can expect, together with the landlord, to gain significant rental income throughout the 25-year life of the wind farm. Crofters involved met with the wind farm company on the evening before the public meeting. A community benefit of £1,000 megawatt per year is on the table, to be made available for educational and environmental purposes through a charitable trust with local trustees. NBW had originally intended erecting 50 turbines with a capacity of more than 100 megawatts which would have powered 84,000 houses, or the equivalent to 90 per cent of the homes in the Highlands. But it scaled back its plans after discovering that some of the turbines were on the flight path of birds from the nearby Caithness and Sutherland Special Protection Area. The pattern of the turbines now takes account of the flight paths of red-throated divers from the moorland lochs on which they breed to the feeding grounds at the sea. Because the wind farm will now produce less than 50 megawatts of electricity, planning permission can come from Highland Council and it will not have to be referred to the Scottish Executive. NBW's development analyst Matthew Burnett, who attended Tuesday's public meeting, said he felt it had gone quite well. "Around 30 to 40 people attended, along with a number of school classes who came along. "Some of the people present were for the development and some were against. There is always a minority against wherever we go."

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