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    Village plans to resist wind farm scheme


    May 17, 2022 - Caithness Courier

     

      Battle lines have been drawn over newly tabled plans to develop a 12-turbine wind farm on the north Sutherland coast.

      Residents are gearing up in their bid to stymie the multimillion-pound venture which they claim would blight the scenic village of Armadale.

      As well as living cheek by jowl with the 490-feet high devices, they fear they would have to endure problems with noise and shadow flicker. They also believe the wind farm would drive tourists away from their village, which is on the North Coast 500.

      The extent of the opposition to the scheme was clear when nearly 30 – the majority of the adult population – turned out at a protest meeting in the village on Thursday evening.

      Canadian green energy conglomerate Brookfield Renewable Partners is behind the plans to develop a 395-hectare tract of hill land to the immediate south of Armadale.

      Eight of the turbines are earmarked on farmland and the other four on common grazings.

      Jimmy Cassidy, who chairs the common grazings committee, said the company has refused to tell him how many of the 19 shareholders have gone along with the scheme.

      They would be paid £1000 for signing an agreement with a further £1000 paid if planning consent was obtained.

      The shareholders would also stand to receive six-figure payouts over the 30-year lifespan of the wind farm.

      "They won’t give us the breakdown but we believe that most have said no," said Mr Cassidy.

      Farr High art teacher Tracy Wilkinson, a shareholder along with her husband Simon, said: "They are seeking to bribe us – if you signed up and took the money, you couldn’t object to it."

      Another resident Valerie Jappy said: "They are desperate to get the shareholders on board."

      She said that this would not be the only obstacle for Brookfield as it would also have to secure Scottish Land Court consent for the new grazings.

      "I reckon it would be highly unlikely that the Land Court would agree to a resumption of the land if a majority of the crofters do not support it," she said.

      Pete and Susan Malone, who run the general store in Bettyhill, are not shareholders but their house at Achnacraig would, at 850 metres away, be the closest to the nearest turbine.

      Mr Malone (63) pointed out that not all shareholders live in the area.

      "That means there could be people who benefit from this but don’t have to live with the impact. It seems crazy that you don’t have to live or croft in the village but can still have a share in the grazings."

      He also believes the wind farm would badly affect tourism on which the area is heavily dependent.

      Mr Cassidy said the visualisations produced by the developer do not reflect how much the turbines would dominate the landscape.

      "The scale of these things is enormous," he said. "The turbines will be completely towering over the village and Lednagullen as well."

      A Brookfield spokesperson said: "Should consents be received, we believe that the development can be a local asset – not only providing a sizeable community benefit fund of £288,000 annually, but also options to share in a community ownership scheme.

      "Whilst the application is now with the planning authorities for determination, our project team are happy to address any queries from the local community and representatives, and we encourage any interested parties to contact us."

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