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Caithness News Bulletins March 2006

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Wind Energy Renewable Energy Strategy Pages Of Highland Council  
20 March 06

A special meeting of The Highland Council is being held on Wednesday to consider further its draft Highland Renewable Energy Strategy.

Once Councillors consider the material already produced by a Working Group and hear from interested parties at the meeting, a report detailing proposed changes to the Strategy will be discussed at a special meeting of the Planning, Development, Europe and Tourism Committee on 19 April.

The minutes of this meeting will then be presented for Council approval at its meeting on 4 May, after which time the approved Strategy and Planning Guidelines will come into force as a material planning consideration.

A Working Group was set up after the Council expressed its disappointment that the case for a national policy framework for renewable energy developments (including an urgent overhaul of current planning guidelines) was not being given priority by the Scottish Executive. It was agreed that a work programme be devised to produce an overarching strategy addressing :

  • the nature, location and scale of future renewable energy developments
  • the promotion of economic development potential
  • social and environmental impacts
  • infrastructure implications.

This strategy would seek to inform future decisions, influence policy makers and promote a positive Highland vision, while maximising the gain and minimising the impact of renewable energy developments in the Highlands.

The Working Group met on seven occasions through to the 19 August 2005. In addition to generating its own papers, the Group conducted a hearing involving presentations from 15 different community groups, organisations and individuals during April. It also invited briefings from a number of external experts. Consideration was given to a wide range of renewable energy sources and not solely onshore wind. Approved minutes and papers were routinely posted to a dedicated "renewables" page prominent within the Council's web site for public access and information.

Public meetings were held in Fort William, Inverness, Halkirk, Portree, Rogart and Alness. These attracted over 500 attendees. Some 562 written representations have been submitted for the Council's consideration, although this includes 170 identical proforma returns, and a number of duplicate submissions which are excluded from the overall numerical analysis

The Working Group comprised Cllrs Sandy Park (chair), Ian Ross, Jimmy Gray, Graeme Smith, Francis Keith and Michael Foxley, together with representatives from Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, VisitScotland, HI-REG and the Scottish Renewables Forum. The Committee further authorised the appointment of specialist consultants, Aquatera Ltd, to develop their earlier Highland renewable energy resource assessment (RERA) work into a draft Strategy together with the necessary supporting documentation.

At Wednesday's meeting, Dr Gareth Davies, Managing Director of Aquatera, will make a presentation to the Council on Aquatera's work on the preparation of the draft Strategy. Thereafter, the undernoted parties will be invited to address the Council on Renewable Energy issues:-

Mrs Angela Craig - Caithness Windfarms Information Forum
Mr Bob Graham - Highlands Against Windfarms Group
Mr David Henderson - Individual
Mr John Hodgson - Skye Windfarm Action Group
Mr Malcolm Rider - Rogart Environment Group
Mr Christopher Brondson - Independent Energy Policy Adviser
Mr Tom Heath - Marine Issues
Dr James Pendlebury - Biomass Issues