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Ridge too far - campaign group galvanising residents over wind farm which would 'overshadow' Brora and impact on the wider Special Landscape Area

By Caroline McMorran

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A local wind farm group is racing against a deadline to raise awareness of a planned development near Brora which it is claimed will completely overshadow the community and affect the wider area.

Loth Residents are an independent group formed in 2012 to protect the northern section of the Loch Fleet, Loch Brora and Glen Loth Special Landscape Area from wind farm development. They opposed a previous wind farm application at West Garty, and are now galvanising local residents to object to the proposed Kintradwell Wind Farm by a cut-off point of April 16.

An image of what the turbines will look like from Lower Brora.
An image of what the turbines will look like from Lower Brora.

A leafleting campaign is being carried out next week in a bid to make sure householders are aware of the impact Kintradwell Wind Farm would have on the local landscape.

The Royal Mail leaflet drop on March 22 has been funded by a legacy left to Loth Residents and will reach around 1008 households.

The group says people are at a disadvantage because Covid-19 restrictions mean that public exhibitions cannot be held as they have been in the past and documentation relating to the development can currently only be accessed online.

Brora Community Council discussed the wind farm at its meeting on Tuesday night and agreed to hold a special meeting on April 6 to gauge local opinion. The community council will then decide its stance.

The wind farm site on Kintradwell Estate lies 1.7 miles south east of the existing Gordonbush wind farm, but is at a much higher elevation. The distance from Brora clock tower to the nearest turbine would be 7.7 kilometres.

Renewable energy company RES is behind the development, although the estate is owned by John Billet. Fifteen turbines are planned, measuring 149.9 metres to tip, and with an installed capacity of 63mw.

RES has lodged the application with the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit as required under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 for wind farms with a generating capacity in excess of 50mw.

However, the local authority is a statutory consultee and will take a decision over whether to support or object to it.

The leaflet issued by Loth residents warns that the turbines are in a Special Landscape Area (SLA) and will overlook Brora from the north west and also be clearly visible from the A9 and from Embo, Dornoch, Portmahomack, Ben Bhraggie, the hills of Rogart, Kinbrace and further afield.

This map shows the boundary of the special landscape area in red and the proposed locations of the turbines.
This map shows the boundary of the special landscape area in red and the proposed locations of the turbines.

It reads: “Our community has fought hard since the mid 90s to preserve the SLA and to date we have succeeded and the pattern of development has been to preserve the coastal ridgelines. The existing wind farms at Gordonbush and Kilbraur are behind the ridge, more discreetly sited to preserve views from our coastal communities, the A9 and points across the Firth, and are outside the SLA.”

Brora community councillor Diana Royce, who is also a member of Loth Residents, said at Tuesday’s community council meeting that the problem with the development was that it would be sited on a ridgeline at a very high altitude.

“The site ground level is at around 450-550m (above sea level). Stand a turbine on top of that and it is nearly the same height as Ben Armine (705m). It is right up above Gordonbush wind farm and the conical peak Smeòrail will be completely dwarfed,” she said.

“It is actually much, much worse than I had anticipated and the cumulative effect looks awful in the visualisations from upper Strath Brora.

“This will have a big effect on Brora - the village is going to be in the shadow of it. There is no hiding from it, it will particularly impact on the beach, the golf course, Lower Brora and the Doll.”

Anyone wishing to attend the April 6 meeting is asked to get in touch with the community council via its Facebook page to be given a link. Alternatively contact chairman Russell Rekhy.

An electronic copy of the full planning application and associated documents can be viewed at www.energyconsents.scot

Representations should be made by April 16 to the Energy Consents Unit (representations@gov.scot) with a copy to the Highland Council (ePlanning@highland.gov).

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