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‘These turbines would change everything’: Caithness community rallies against wind farm plan

Residents say they are sick of a stream of energy-related developments in their area.

Residents have formed a campaign group to fight the wind farm
Residents have formed a campaign group to fight the wind farm

Four generations of the Sandison family have farmed land in Caithness they now fear could be overshadowed by wind turbines.

They are members of a small community fighting plans for green energy projects they say would harm their way of life.

Wind2 wants to install two 150m high turbines and a battery energy storage system at Bower.

An application is expected in May for the project that will have a total installed capacity of around 20MW.

Turbines are a ‘blight on the landscape’

The company says the Swarclett Wind Farm could generate around 35,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity annually, enough for around 10,000 homes.

The Sandisons are part of the campaign group No to Swarclett which says a “tipping point” has been reached over energy projects in the area.

The family run the 550-acre Smerral Farm in Bower and say one of the proposed turbines will be only around 100m from their property.

Farmer Ronald Sandison said: “These monstrosities will be a blight on a valued landscape enjoyed by many.

“It is so close to my property that livestock will be unsettled which will affect production.”

Ronald Sandison says the turbines will blight the landscape

Mr Sandison said longer term he planned to retire to a croft that lies almost directly under the proposed turbines.

“Nobody would want to live so close and suffer the inevitable noise and other disturbances.”

He said the area is currently a haven for wildlife which would be affected by the wind farm.

He added: “This wind farm proposal is a prime example of a few greedy people being prepared to make money at the expense of the quality of life and environment of many others.”

The campaigners say there are 10 properties within 1,500 metres of the Swarclett site, including four just about 800 metres away.

Risk of being overwhelmed

Tony Shaw, who helped set up the campaign group, said: “We are a tiny community at risk of being overwhelmed by the greed of landowners, power companies and those with the naive view that community benefit funds are something other than a bribe and carry no cost.

“We don’t believe any reasonable person could be in support of a scheme such as the Swarclett proposal where the lives of those in our community would be so badly affected.”

A community visualisation of the wind farm in relation to their homes

Daniel Hopwood said he and his wife have lived with the threat of turbines being installed next to their house for two years.

“Countless sleepless nights spent worrying about what will happen, all so a developer can make a quick profit from the Highlands with little thought as to the impacts they leave behind.”

Nicola and Mark Paterson manage the Morvenview Caravan site and fear for their business.

Nicola said: “Why on earth would anyone want to destroy this environment?

Devastating impact

“Our fears are for the business, as with an increasing number of caravan sites in Caithness, who is going to choose one in such close proximity to the turbines?

“The whole area would be blighted by this development.

“These turbines would change everything over a much wider area and have a devastating impact.”

Claire Moore and Derek Bissell are building a new house having relocated from Cornwall.

Claire said: “We got very positive reactions to our house design from planning, with plenty of passive heat generating features.

“Now, some of those features are at risk of presenting us with the nightmare view of a turbine just 800m away in place of the lovely unspoiled view towards Dunnet Bay.”

Campaigners Daniel Hopwood and Tony Shaw.

The group outlined their complaints in a letter to local politicians.

It said: “We feel that a tipping point has been reached in that most residents of Caithness are absolutely sick of the continual stream of energy-related developments that they are bombarded with.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Tim Eagle is to raise the group’s issues at a debate in the Scottish Parliament next week.

Community benefit and electricity bill contribution

Hannah Brown, the Wind2 project manager, said the Swarclett scheme aims to help achieve national renewable energy targets while ensuring no significant impact to its setting.

She said an environmental impact assessment will be available when the planning application is submitted to Highland Council next month.

“We acknowledge the concerns from the local residents and appreciate their time in attending our public exhibitions held in both Bower and Castletown.”

She said following resident feedback community benefit and electricity contribution scheme proposals have been amended.

This would allow residents within a 2km boundary to claim £600 per property per year towards their electricity bills.

The remainder of the community funds would be split between communities in Bower and Castletown.

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