Inquiry into two proposed windfarms in West Caithness

Trust calls for environmental, social and economic value of Wild Land Area to be recognised

View of drum hollistan site feb 2018 detail

The John Muir Trust, alongside RAWOG (Reay Area Windfarm Opposition Group), Scottish Natural Heritage and the Highland Council, are preparing to give evidence next week at a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) into two major windfarm applications – Limekiln and Drum Hollistan, both near Reay.

The Inquiry will take place in Thurso Town Hall from the 26 February (and there is seating for the public to watch proceedings). The current Limekiln application is for 21 turbines, up to 139 metres high; the Drum Hollistan application is for 17 turbines of up to 140m.  If either of these are approved the turbines will be 30 metres higher than those at the existing Baillie Wind Farm near Dounreay. A similar application at Limekiln was rejected by the Scottish Government Minister following a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) in 2014.

The Trust will be represented at the PLI by an experienced professional team which will include the Trust’s Chief Executive Andrew Bachell, Head of Policy Helen McDade and Policy Officer John Low. The Trust will also benefit from specialist technical advice from expert Dr Steve Carver of the University of Leeds Wild Land Research institute.

Helen McDade, born and brought up in Thurso, said: “I remember as a child going for picnics to Sandside, a beautiful place with spectacular views both inland and towards the sea.

“Either of the developments would profoundly alter the landscapes and seascapes around this area, which includes East Halladale Flows. The special scenery across the Flow Country and the Pentland Firth contributes to the attraction of the North Coast 500, which has been an important boost to the local economy.

“As far as Limekiln is concerned, I’m dismayed that yet again all the participants have to go over the case for and against the application at a Public Local Inquiry.  The cost of this – to locals, organisations and the public purse alike – is considerable since it includes expert witnesses, staff time and associated expenses. This application should never have got this far in the planning system.

“The Trust and its supporters believe that wildness is an asset which supports a range of cultural, economic and landscape benefits. It also has substantial public support: last year a YouGov poll found that in the Highlands and Islands, 60 per cent of people ‘strongly agreed’ that Wild Land Areas should be protected from this kind of development, with another 20 per cent ‘tending to agree’. Only five per cent ‘tended to disagree ‘ (and none strongly) that wild land should be protected from large scale commercial wind farms and similar industrial-style development.

“The Scottish Government has also recognised wild land as a ‘nationally important’ asset, so we would hope these applications will ultimately be rejected.”  

Photo shows the Trust's John Low looking at the Drum Hollistan site in February 2018.