By Iain Ramage

Dozens of campaigners turned up today at the start of a public inquiry into
a controversial Highland windfarm proposal to demonstrate the strength of
local support for a 39-turbine scheme – the second – near the remote
Sutherland village of Strathy.

A community leader described the project as “the last chance” to save the
village.

The inquiry, which began with a focus on the implications for peatland, has
bitterly divided the applicant Scottish and Southern Energy and its main
objector RSPB Scotland.

Five miles away, SSE’s 33-turbine Strathy North windfarm is nearing
completion. It is expected to be operational in June.

The proceedings have been overshadowed by a bitter row between the would-be
developer and the bird charity.

RSPB Scotland claims the project, near Thurso, could take almost 25 years –
the envisaged operational lifetime of the windfarm – to compensate for
environmental damage it would inflict on the terrain during its construction.

It would stand on peatland in the heart of the internationally important
Flow Country in Sutherland.

Speaking shortly before the inquiry got underway, Strathy and Armadale
Community Council chairwoman Jeanette Mackay said: “I’m in favour because
of the economic benefits this windfarm will bring to our community.

“Our population is falling to a very dangerous level and we see this as a
last chance to create work for our young folk.

“We already have some investment from Strathy North and with that we have
been able to create work for ourselves – lots of projects including fencing
the whole village to keep the animals out.

“We have picnic tables, a dyker building dykes and an all-weather pitch
which we would never otherwise to have been able to afford.”

The retired teacher said when she began teaching 40 years ago there were 12
primary schools along the north coast. There are now just three due to its
shrinking population.

SSE maintains that its evidence shows there would be “very significant
overall environmental gain for the Flow Country and for peatland restoration.”

It insists the Strathy South scheme would be built on low quality peat and
it has pledged to “repair” 50 times the area of peatland on which the
latest windfarm would sit.

A site visit will be held next Monday at 10am as part of the public inquiry.

Postponed consideration of ornithological issues has been rescheduled for
June 9 to 11.


SAS Volunteer

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