A community group has vowed to fight plans for a wind farm with some of the tallest turbines in the UK on what it calls one of the few remaining untouched areas around Watten.
The Watten Wind Farm Opposition Group (WWFOG) said it wants to give the community a voice after more than 100 people attended a meeting at the village hall to discuss the proposals.
The meeting was convened by Watten Community Council (WCC) to gauge local opinion on the proposal by EDF Renewables UK to build seven 220m high turbines approximately 3km from the village.
Many of the participants at the meeting appeared to be opposed to the plan and the newly formed opposition group issued a statement after the event to sum up its stance on the matter.
It said: "The WWFOG has been created to give our concerned rural community a voice, and a place to discuss their concerns and opinions about the proposed wind farm.
"The Watten area is already at capacity with turbines and this proposed wind farm will severely negatively impact one of the few remaining untouched areas. The sheer size of these at 220m high (100m higher than any existing turbines) will have a huge visual impact on not only the Watten area, but the entire county.
"We will continue to fight this new development and make sure we give our concerned community a voice."
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Watten Wind Farm is a proposed project that would consist of up to seven turbines with maximum blade tip heights of 220 metres, with an estimated total installed capacity of around 50MW.
The project will include access tracks, a substation, a battery storage facility, a temporary construction compound, a permanent meteorological mast, underground cabling and a connection linking the wind farm to the national electricity grid. The proposed site is located around the Wester Watten Moss Forest, which is approximately 3km south-west of Watten village.
EDF Renewables UK said: "Onshore wind turbines are constantly evolving, which means bigger voltages and larger diameter rotors so although future projects may have bigger turbines it usually means there will be less of them too."
EDF held public exhibitions in June and November last year to inform the community and local businesses about the wind farm. "Since then, we have been carrying out various studies to determine the most appropriate size and layout for a wind farm in this location," it stated.
The UK’s highest wind turbine is located at Lethans in East Ayrshire, measuring 200 metres tall and there is a proposal to build a series of 250m high machines in Wales.
A local landowner, who asked not to be named, has ground adjacent to the proposed site at West Watten and said that the area is of "environmental importance".
"I’ve asked for a noise assessment to be done and they told me there were too many operational wind farms in the area and it would give extra high readings," she said. "It’s protected ground and wild habitat for birds and other wildlife. We have the nearest house to the wind farm and I’ve told them [EDF] I want photographs to show what it will look like."
Kirsty Watt, who lives in Lybster but wants to relocate to Watten, said: "There’s enough of them [wind farms]. We moved up from Lincolnshire where they put one up at the back of our house there. It seems like we’ve moved almost 600 miles up the country and they’re doing exactly the same.
"What’s the obsession with putting them in Caithness? They’re a blight on the landscape and ruin the lives of anyone who lives in close proximity to them. Caithness is being made the scapegoat for government greenwashing."
Sarah Dooley, principal project manager for EDF Renewables UK said: "We have held two community consultations, in addition to various individual meetings and correspondence, and have adapted the design as a result, including reducing the number of turbines down from eight to seven.
"We have a strong track record of working closely with communities around our wind farms and we are keen to continue our approach here in Caithness. A community benefit fund will be established once the wind farm is operational and will be in line with Scottish Government guidance of £5000 per MW per year for the lifetime of the wind farm.
"As we have seen at other sites, this fund is a fantastic opportunity to bring additional funding to a remote area for community projects and local initiatives. It is up to the community how they would like to see these funds spent and managed through a third party.
"During the construction and operation of this wind farm, it will provide a welcome boost to the local economy, driving business and money to the area and employing local contractors and services where possible."
Some at the meeting questioned how beneficial a community benefit fund would be as there is "a lot of red tape involved in accessing these funds" and that Watten Community Council already had money from similar projects which it had not yet spent. Calvin and Lucy Wilson from WWFOG said that similar proposals in Scotland have been thrown out locally but then the "SNP government gives them the go ahead".
"It can feel like a waste of time but you can’t let that get to you," said Lucy.