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'Widespread local support' for Strathy South wind farm plan, says SSE

By Gordon Calder

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Local backers of the Strathy South wind farm show their support for the SSE development.
Local backers of the Strathy South wind farm show their support for the SSE development.

A PLAN to build a huge wind farm near Strathy has "widespread local support", according to the company behind the project.

The 39-turbine scheme, proposed by SSE 12 kilometres south of the Sutherland village, was objected to by Highland Council in 2014 before being consented by Scottish Ministers in 2018 following a local public inquiry. It is now due to go before the local authority again next week, following submission of a Section 36C application to Scottish ministers by SSE last year to vary the tip height and increase generating capacity from 133 to 208 megawatts.

The application also includes revisions to the access tracks and the replacement of the consented meteorological masts with permanent LiDAR equipment while a further two years of breeding bird surveys will also be undertaken.

Many residents back the plan and say the wind farm will give a boost to the area, bring jobs and funding for the community but critics claim the cluster of wind farms in the area will create a wall of turbines and impact on the visual effect of the Flow Country. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the site is unsuitable because of the risk to the surrounding species and habitats and has objected to the plan.

Among those backing the scheme is Strathy resident Carol-Anne Farquhar, who said: "We were really disappointed the strong local support wasn’t represented at the planning committee last time when Highland Council objected to the proposal, so we hope that our local ward councillors and planning committee members hear our voices loud and clear this time around. We’ve seen what projects like this can do for fragile, rural communities like ours. Strathy North Wind Farm, another of SSE’s projects which they built a few years ago, brought so much benefit to the area including vital jobs, employment, local shops being busier and local accommodation providers being able to stay open in the winter. It gave the area a real boost and our local community groups continue to benefit from SSE’s Strathy North community fund."

Strathy Point resident Jessie MacLeod stated: "I am a crofter, in my eighties, who has lived here all of my life. The impacts of climate change need to be taken seriously. I have seen a lot of changes here in my lifetime – not least the gradual loss of bird species such as the corncrakes – as well as the loss of another of our endangered species ‘our young folk’. Nothing has brought as much investment and opportunity into this remote area, with so little impact, as SSE’s first wind farm. That’s why there’s such a lot of local support for Strathy South – it’s because of the renewable energy, peatland restoration, jobs and employment, and funding for our community. It’s much more than just a wind farm."

Patsy Macaskill, who runs a B&B at Strathy Point, stated: "We were all very sceptical of Strathy North and I’m not a fan personally of every wind farm, but SSE delivered on their promises with Strathy North and worked closely to ensure that the project really benefited the community."

SSE’s project manager for Strathy South, Jon Soal, is "delighted" with the local support for the project. "We worked closely with the community during the construction of Strathy North and listened carefully to people’s views to ensure that we considered local needs and priorities wherever possible. This approach has resulted in good relationships which we hope to build on with Strathy South to ensure that we maximise the benefits to the local area from the project."

If approved, the wind farm could power up to 317,000 homes, generate 53 jobs in the Highland region, and around £13.7 million in community funding in addition to local jobs and employment. SSE has also committed to a Habitat Management Plan which would help restore over 2,660 hectares of peatland – both on and off site.

Strathy South is due to go before Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee on Tuesday (June 8) although the final determination will be made by Scottish ministers.

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