Battle lines are being drawn up as protesters in and around a far north coast village gear up for another set-to with a wind farm developer.
More than 30 placard-wielding objectors gate-crashed a drop-in session to unveil plans to extend a controversial scheme on forest land to the immediate south of Reay.
Renewable company Infinergy and its Canadian investor partners Boralex got the go-ahead this summer to erect 21 turbines at Limekiln following a public inquiry.
Many locals are furious after the developers last week confirmed it has earmarked an adjoining site, owned by Broubster and Achaveilan North estates, for a further seven turbines.
The demo came on the first of two open days staged to give details of the new venture which combined with the consented scheme would offer more than £13 million in community benefit.
Nuclear industry executive David Craig yesterday said local objectors were stunned to learn of the latest proposal.
He said “I think the turn-out here shows the strength of feeling there is about this issue in the area
“We’ve had people from Reay, Shebster, Achvarasdal, from right across the area, coming along to object.”
The proposed new turbines, he said, are bigger and taller than those going up at Limekiln and would have an unnacceptable impact on the landscape and residents.
Retired teacher Celia McDougall, whose house at Shebster would be just over two kilometres from the new site, says the 149.5 metre high turbines will dominate the view from her sitting room.
Retired solicitor Gillian Macpherson, from Reay, raised a 1,500-name petition against the Limekiln development.
She said: “I was horrified to see the plans for the extension – I certainly wasn’t expecting it but obviously they are trying to maximise the profits they can make.
“The whole village is up in arms about it.”
Infinergy project director Nick Sage accepted the turbines would be more than 20 metres taller than those at Limekiln, but said they would be going up on lower lying land.
Asked about the strength of opposition to the scheme, Mr Sage said: “I’ve been working on this application for nine years an so I can appreciate the people here that don’t like wind farms and can understand that people are upset and I respect their opinions on this.
“But we think this is a very good site for a wind farm and that there is great potential for the area to obtain a large amount of community benefit from it.”
The go-ahead for the extension would add £4 million to the £9 million in community funding coming on stream from Limekiln.
The two schemes would require a construction force of between 60 and 70 and Mr Sage said local contractors would be involved.
If approval is granted by Scottish Ministers, the developers aim to have both schemes live by 2022.