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Local authority accepts rise in turbine height at Strathy South but wants number reduced by four

By Caroline McMorran

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Highland Council is raising no objection to a bid to increase by 65m the height of turbines on the planned Strathy South wind farm, which when erected would make them the highest in the area.

However, the local authority is recommending that four turbines be removed from the 39-turbine, £235 million scheme, to be located 12km to the south of Strathy village.

Locals carry placards to show their support for the Strathy South wind farm.
Locals carry placards to show their support for the Strathy South wind farm.

The Strathy South development has been years in the making.

Highland Council turned down the original planning application in 2014, but Scottish Ministers gave it the go-ahead in 2018 following a public inquiry.

However, developers SSE Generation lodged a fresh application in September last year seeking permission to vary the heights of the turbines from 135m to 200m, and also to make changes to access tracks to avoid areas of deep peat.

And members of the north planning applications committee unanimously agreed not to object to the revisions when they met on Tuesday. But their support is subject to four turbines, numbered 35, 36, 39 and 41 being removed, which it is felt would alleviate the visual impact.

The final decision lies with the Scottish Ministers because of the massive size of the wind farm, which will have an installed capacity of 208mw.

Councillors heard that Strathy South had widespread local support with three north coast community councils in favour - Strathy and Armadale; Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra; and Melvich.

The groups said the socioeconomic benefits of the scheme outweighed the visual impacts.

A number of local people last week showed their backing for Strathy South by being pictured holding placards stating that the wind farm would create local jobs, aid peatland restoration and provide community benefit funds.

Highland Council received 29 representations in support of the proposal and two against.

SSE Generation says the wind farm will support more than 50 indirect jobs in the Highlands including Caithness and Sutherland.

And the power company anticipates that it will provide around £500,000 a year in community benefit alone.

NatureScot raised a number of serious objections on the grounds that survey data underestimates collision mortality for greenshank – a qualifying feature of the Caithness and Sutherland Special Protection Area.

They also fear that the significant number of turbines are likely to overlap with breeding territories, estimating that up to 15 -16 existing pairs are at risk of collision mortality disproportionately affecting the protected area.

At Tuesday's meeting, North, West and Central Sutherland Ward Councillor Kirsteen Currie (SNP) said: "I don’t think you can underestimate the transformative effect of a well-placed development that is sympathetic to its environment and is forward thinking.

“I think back to some of the huge proponents of this, some very dear people who we have lost now on the north coast, who really put their heart and soul and thought into what this could provide for the community.

“I am honestly really humbled by it and I am quite emotional about how much time and effort that community has put into ensuring there is a future for their community."

She suggested Strathy South could become a visitor attraction, similar to Whitelee wind Farm, south of Glasgow.

“There is potential for developments such as this, particularly on the north coast, where we are seeing a huge influx of visitors but there is not always a lot of things for people to do in that area," she said.

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