Caithness villagers say no to '˜circle of steel' wind farms

Protesters from the far north coast of Scotland have travelled to Edinburgh to deliver a petition against plans to build two giant wind farms in a region known for its dramatic scenery.

Residents of Reay in Caithness fear proposals for two giant wind farms will turn off visitors, threaten wildlife and turn their picturesque village into a ghost town

Locals fear the schemes, which between them will consist of almost 40 turbines standing up to 140m tall, will have a “devastating” impact on the picturesque village of Reay and the surrounding countryside in Caithness.

There are also concerns over the potential threat to important native wildlife, including nesting golden eagles.

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The county has benefited from the popularity of the North Coast 500 driving route, which has brought an influx of visitors.

But residents say Reay will become a ghost town, encircled by “a ring of steel”, with tourists put off visiting due to turbines blighting the landscape.

The 72mw Limekiln and 51mw Drum Hollistan wind farms, both close to the village, would come on top of three existing developments in the area and would be visible for miles around.

Retired solicitor Gilian Macpherson, who organised the petition, has gathered 1,000 signatures.

Now she has made the 550-mile round trip to the Scottish Parliament to deliver it in person to local MSP Gail Ross.

“The North Coast 500 route has been very successful and is promoted on the basis of the stunning coastal scenery,” she said.

“Hotel, B&B and other businesses in Caithness have benefited hugely.

“The proposed wind farms would destroy the beautiful views and all incentive to travel the north coast route.”

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The proposal for Limekiln was previously refused planning permission by Highland Council, but was later resubmitted and linked with the application for Drum Hollistan.

A public inquiry has been held and a decision is now awaited from Scottish ministers.

Mrs Macpherson says local people feel their views are being treated with “complete disrespect and contempt”.

She said: “There is a growing and deep bitterness in the wider population of Caithness that this county is sufficiently remote and distant from Edinburgh for our opinions and economic welfare to be disregarded.

“The policy of the Scottish Government appears to be that power should be in their hands to overrule decisions by planning authorities and ignore the wishes and interests of the electorate.

“There is a general feeling of resentment evident in all parts of Caithness at the plethora of wind farms imposed on this small county.”