View Full Version : Opposition to offshore Caithness windfarm complex

18-Mar-13, 09:02
Jobs would compensate for any loss of view caused by turbines says council planning chief
windfarms might be seen as a tourist-attraction-to-some claim

A TOP Highland Council planner has said that far from being tourist turn-off, a controversial, three-farm offshore wind farm complex in the Moray Firth could be an attraction.
Malcolm MacLeod was addressing objectors’ concerns to a plan to establish a triple wind farm development off the Caithness coast and also suggested that the jobs created, could be regarded as compensation for the loss of scenery.
Mr MacLeod, Highland Council’s head of planning and building standards, was commenting, on a consultation request from the Scottish Government’s Marine Scotland division to an application it has received from Moray Offshore Renewables (MORL) Ltd, along with 10 objections. It wants to construct three farms, named Stevenson, Telford and McColl, 22 kms off the south-east coast of Caithness.
The development has generated 10 objections from salmon fishery interests, bird guardians, the RSPB, and two MSPs, among others, to the company’s enterprise.
Fears the towering structures could adversely impinge on the far north’s tourism trade, have been acknowledged in Mr MacLeod’s report which will be considered by the North Planning Applications Committee , tomorrow.
Technical reasons make it difficult to be precise about the number and dimensions of the turbines, at this stage, but they could range from 189 in number to, 204 metres high, to 339 turbines 162m in height. They will take six years to build and will be capable of producing 1.5GW.
The project might run into troubled waters, however, if opponents of the development, backed by MSPs Kevin Stewart and Rob Gibson manage to persuade councillors to lodge an objection.
The objectors argue that the turbines will have an adverse impact on marine life and salmon and tourism interests and cite potential problems with noise and the visual experience, as well as posing a safety threat for workers. They question whether the financial return will be adequate and point to other alternatives such as wave power.
However, Mr MacLeod, says in his report to members - compiled by team leader David Mudie -that the Highland Renewable Energy Strategy considers the Moray Firth as “a suitable site for offshore wind development” and that “the perception of negative effect, is likely to be overcome if there is evidence of direct employment opportunities in the area.”
He concedes that the most significant residual effect is likely to be the impact on visual amenity and, potentially, its link to tourism, described as the Highlands’ “most important sector”.
But Mr MacLeod said that a studies carried out by the MORL concluded that, while tourists didn’t particularly like turbines, only a small minority considered their presence as a hindrance to making return visits.
He commented: “It could be argued that offshore wind farms in this location may provide additional interest to the seascape and may become a visitor attraction in their own right.”
Arguing that the wind farms would not have a significant detrimental impact and therefore complied with the development plan. Mr MacLeod conceded: “While the effects on residential amenity will, to the majority, be peripheral, the presence of a large wind farms on the horizon, may not be desirable to some. But, there is a reasonable expectation that communities with wind farms on their horizons, should be able to see this off-set by employment opportunities.”
Mr MacLeod added: “ This may assist with softening the visual imposition. No studies have blamed the existence of wind farms as a reason for a decline in tourist numbers, yet a development of this scale may well be perceived as having a negative effect on the tourist economy. Although it may be, that some visitors will be deterred from returning to the area, given the range of activities pursued by visitors to Caithness, it is not considered that the proposal would be significantly detrimental. “
Mr MacLeod maintained that while seawards views would be affected, the character of the area, its open skies and broad horizons would remain, and added: “It is also possible that a development such as this, could become an attraction in its own right as has happened at Scroby Sands near Great Yarmouth. It would also be fair to say that this perception of negative effect is likely to be overcome if there is evidence of direct employment opportunities in the area visited.”
Mr MacLeod went on to say that the benefits from MORL’s proposal must be weighed against potential drawbacks and then considered “in the round”. Given the anticipated generating capacity, the development would make a considerable contribution to installed capacity targets for renewable energy and therefore the Government’s aspiration for a low carbon economy.
Scottish Natural Heritage has said that the development is unlikely to affect the viability of the Atlantic salmon.
Mr Macleod said that since the development would restrict access to fishing grounds of the Smith Bank, the applicant had undertaken an appraisal of the industry, quoting studies of the effect of the proposal on commercial fishing interests, as the Outer Moray Firth does form part of the Highland economy. The studies concluded that the effect on commercially-fished species would be minor and given the infshore nature of lobster and crab fishing activity, it was considered that the development would not have “any significant effect”.
The Scottish Government’s Marine Scotland division highlights the employment prospects and states that offshore wind offers “greater efficiency and, economy of scale and has fewer impacts than onshore wind.”
Mr Macleod has recommended to councillors considering the issue tomorrow that they do not object to the development.