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Community Fears Access Issue May Prejudice Windfarm Plan Debate

A Highland community fears councillors could be prejudiced in favour of a windfarm plan because the Highland Council is negotiating with the renewable energy company over provision of a potential shared access.

Edinburgh-based RDC Developments Ltd has applied to the council for planning permission for a 19-turbine development at Kilbraur, near Brora, in Sutherland, and its application will be determined at the planning committee in Brora on March 3.

But Rogart Environmental Group yesterday pointed out that if given the go-ahead the proposed windfarm would share an access from the A9 Inverness to Thurso road, near Golspie, with planned new council offices in the former technical school at Drummuie and a proposed development of more than 100 houses on council-owned land.

Environmental group chairman Malcolm Rider said they were concerned that funding for the new council offices - which would replace the council offices at Dornoch, Brora and Golspie at a cost of more than 4million - was given the go ahead at the Sutherland County Committee meeting on February 6.

He said: "We understand that Highland Council has been negotiating with RDC for sometime about the access to Drummuie and we had expected the decision on the Drummuie council offices development to come after the Kilbraur... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Edinburgh-based RDC Developments Ltd has applied to the council for planning permission for a 19-turbine development at Kilbraur, near Brora, in Sutherland, and its application will be determined at the planning committee in Brora on March 3.

But Rogart Environmental Group yesterday pointed out that if given the go-ahead the proposed windfarm would share an access from the A9 Inverness to Thurso road, near Golspie, with planned new council offices in the former technical school at Drummuie and a proposed development of more than 100 houses on council-owned land.

Environmental group chairman Malcolm Rider said they were concerned that funding for the new council offices - which would replace the council offices at Dornoch, Brora and Golspie at a cost of more than £4million - was given the go ahead at the Sutherland County Committee meeting on February 6.

He said: "We understand that Highland Council has been negotiating with RDC for sometime about the access to Drummuie and we had expected the decision on the Drummuie council offices development to come after the Kilbraur windfarm planning meeting. Now that Drummuie has been agreed upon, we feel it will be almost impossible for councillors to talk about Kilbraur without this apparent planning gain in the back of their minds.

"We want assurances that we are going to be talking about the pros and cons of the site itself and that planning gain will not have an influence.

"We're not accusing anybody, but we would like to be reassured that the decision to develop Drummuie was not influenced at all by the possibility of receiving money for the windfarm development," said Mr Rider.

The environmental group is objecting to the proposed windfarm, which it says is too close to local houses and would have an adverse visual impact on Strath Brora.

A Highland Council spokesman yesterday confirmed that the council was still in negotiation with RDC about the access land. He said a report would be presented to councillors once negotiations had been completed.

But area manager, Graeme McLaughlin, pointed out that the council decision to go ahead with the Drummuie development could not have been influenced by RDC's proposal as the feasibility study for the project was undertaken in 2001 - before the windfarm had been suggested.

"These things are not in anyway related. They can't be. In the event that the windfarm application does not get permission, the council will have to fund the access and that's that.

"The application for the windfarm will, I am quite sure, be looked at on its merits," said Mr McLaughlin.

He explained that the cost of the access road, which is expected to be around £700,000, would be offset by the sale of some of the nearby council-owned land to the Highland Housing Alliance.

RDC director, Gerry Jewson, last night said: "We have been discussing using council land for access with the council's estates department. No decision on whether this will be possible will be reached until after the planning hearing so as not to prejudice the outcome."

Source: http://www.pressandjournal....

FEB 16 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1392-community-fears-access-issue-may-prejudice-windfarm-plan-debate
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