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United Kingdom

Country Guardian strikes Helmsdale plans

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Plans for two wind farms near the fishing village of Helmsdale in north east Scotland are to be put to a planning inquiry. Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth called in applications by Danish wind turbine manufacturer Micon for 20 turbines at West Garty and Renewable Energy Systems (RES) for 17 at nearby Gartymore after both schemes had been approved by the local authority. Unlike the rest of the UK, wind farm applications in Scotland have to go before the Scottish Secretary for final approval. The Scottish Office has not yet fully explained on what grounds it has called in the proposals, merely saying that it has taken the step "in view of the development's possible impact on the environment" . Highland Council gave its go-ahead in March, but both before and after its decision, the Helmsdale projects have been the focus of a high profile campaign of protest. Objectors to the developments welcome the public inquiry, but Chris Shears of RES points out that some sections of the crofters' community want the wind farms to proceed. "The village of Helmsdale is split; there are strong views on both sides but the objectors have made the most noise as they normally do," he says. Anti-wind farm group Country Guardian targeted the projects for a campaign of protest. It has advised local objectors and its small but dedicated band of members -- mostly in southern England and Wales -- have deluged planners and politicians with correspondence objecting to the plans. Shears believes Country Guardian's involvement has whipped up opposition to the wind farms. "Before they got involved a lot of people were ambivalent about the whole thing." Highland Council hopes the inquiry will take the form of written submissions instead of a full hearing. But the Scottish Secretary has yet to decide how and when the inquiry will take place

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