Landscapes in Caithness and other parts of Scotland are being “trashed in pursuit of profit” by wind farm developers and landowners, it has been claimed.

Jillian Bundy, chairperson of Caithness West Community Council, said wind energy developments were “never-ending” and maintained they had little to do with addressing the climate emergency.

She was speaking after Scottish Government ministers supported the recommendation from a public local inquiry held last June and gave the go-ahead for the Limekiln extension plan at a site on the edge of Reay.

The Limekiln Section 36C variation application has now also been approved by ministers.

There will be a total of 24 turbines, with tip heights of up to 149.9m, across Limekiln and part of Broubster Forest.

Mrs Bundy said: “Local people are bitterly disappointed that further wind turbines are being forced on our community, despite overwhelming opposition.

“Residents of Achvarasdal and Shebster will be particularly impacted by the extension.

“With the Limekiln variation being approved, this will increase the height of all turbines to 150m, which the developers’ own environmental impact statement acknowledges will have a significantly detrimental impact to residential amenity.

“The only piece of good news is that the Drum Hollistan appeal has been rejected, with the reporter commenting that ‘the significant negative effects would outweigh the relatively small benefits of the scheme’.

“We would hope that this draws Drum Hollistan to a close and we see no further applications for the site.

“In the Caithness West Community Council area we now have the Pentland offshore scheme moving forward and another application for Cairnmore Hill.

“It’s never-ending and it is now becoming increasingly obvious that wind development has little to do with the climate emergency. Our peatlands, wildlife and natural wild spaces in Scotland are being trashed by developers and landowners in pursuit of profit at the expense of all of us who pay for their inefficient electricity.”

Jillian Bundy pointing towards the landscape to the south of Reay where the Limekiln turbines will be built. Picture: Alan HendryJillian Bundy pointing towards the landscape to the south of Reay where the Limekiln turbines will be built. Picture: Alan Hendry

The Limekiln extension consists of five turbines which will bring an additional 21 MW of installed capacity to the project.

A bid to increase the height of the proposed turbines at the consented Limekiln site was approved by Highland Council in December. The local authority had originally refused consent for the development in 2019 but that decision was overturned by the Scottish Government.

Members of the north planning applications committee agreed to allow the Limekiln project variation application to move to the final decision-making stage with Scottish ministers, with two of the 21 turbines removed.

Energy firms Infinergy and Boralex announced a fifty-fifty joint venture agreement in October 2017 aimed at developing a number of onshore wind projects, including Limekiln.

Esbjörn Wilmar, managing director of Infinergy, welcomed ministers’ approval of the variation of the existing planning consent.

The variation includes a revised track design, allowing improved access during the construction works to the core path network.

Mr Wilmar said: “I am delighted that the Scottish ministers have supported the view of Highland Council with this decision. The revised scheme will see increased benefits to the local area, not only in terms of access around the site but in terms of increased community benefits.

“The communities of Caithness are some of those most in need of such benefits in the country. In addition, Limekiln will make a valid contribution not only to the fight against climate change but, importantly at this time, the energy security of this country as a whole.

“While we are looking to improve the track design, we are also looking to increase the energy yield from the wind farm by increasing tip heights in line with our Limekiln extension project and applying state-of-the-art turbine technology.

“Even with two fewer turbines, this variation will still allow us to generate more renewable energy than the existing consented scheme.

“Now that both Limekiln projects have been consented, they will be built as one development. This will reduce the overall disruption during the construction stage.

“The increase in energy production and further optimising the design of the site will also enhance the economics of the projects.”

The Limekiln developers say there will be “potential opportunities for local companies and local workforce to be involved”.

The Drum Hollistan 2 proposal, between Reay and Melvich, consisted of seven turbines with a maximum blade-tip height of 125 metres.

An appeal was lodged by Drum Hollistan Renewables LLP against Highland Council’s refusal of planning permission in September 2020.

A notice dismissing the appeal was issued this month by Trudi Craggs, a reporter appointed by Scottish ministers.

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