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PICTURES: Wind farm company under fire over single-track Highland road left like a 'patchwork quilt'

By Caroline McMorran

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Power company SSE Renewables has been accused of leaving a Sutherland road like a “patchwork quilt” after it was used for months by wind farm construction traffic.

Brora cyclist Sandy Crawford claimed that over 60 per cent of the areas damaged on the single-track Strath Brora road by Gordonbush Extension traffic have not been repaired.

The former health and safety professional, who is a member of cycling club East Sutherland Wheelers, said that the road was so strewn with stones, dislodged by vehicles from a hard shoulder created to accommodate wider loads, that he fears an accident is likely.

"A quick risk assessment of cycling on that single track road strewn with large stones makes an accident likely and the severity probable,” he said.

“It is unacceptable that a hugely profitable organisation like SSE should treat an area from which they stand to gain so much in such a shoddy manner.”

Mr Crawford’s concerns are shared by others including Golspie community councillor, Iain Miller, who was the Golspie representative on the Gordonbush Extension liaison group.

Local councillors have been lobbied over the situation with the demand that contractors be held to account to ensure adequate reinstatement of roads.

Deliveries of components for the 11-turbine Gordonbush Extension, situated 9.5 kilometres north west of Brora, began in November last year and were completed in March.

Works to reinstate and repair the Strath Brora route began in June with patches of the road repaired.

In an email to councillors and council officials, Mr Crawford said: "The road was initially marked with spray paint to highlight the damaged areas, but the unmarked areas were just as damaged.

"A civil engineer friend states that unless the entire road is resurfaced, ensuing winters will destroy the road and turn it into a track, just like the road at Glen Loth.”

Mr Miller claimed the work had been done in a “piecemeal fashion” and it would have been better had the road been completely resurfaced.

He said the road surface was cracking and had bevelled down roughly 30cm from its edge at parts where it had been widened with gravel and compacted to allow large vehicles to run a bit wider.

“I am concerned for the lifespan of this road if substantial repairs are not carried out in a timely manner,” he said. "It's a sad state of affairs when a company the size of SSE may be allowed to leave our infrastructure in a much poorer state when they leave than when they were welcomed here."

Sutherland County Committee chairman Richard Gale said: “I have asked Highland Council’s roads team to investigate and to provide a report on the condition of the road and of course to ensure that any damage attributable to the wind farm is duly corrected.

“I am assured that there have been discussions and agreements reached with SSE about this and that works have been carried out as per that agreement.

“I also understand that there are works to be carried out by Highland Council going forward to improve the condition of the road and hopefully that will address the issues that have been raised.”

A spokesman for SSE Renewables said: “As part of the planning conditions for Gordonbush Extension, SSE Renewables was required to repair any sections of the roads along the site delivery route that were damaged by construction traffic.

“A detailed survey of the roads was conducted before construction began and another survey was undertaken when the construction work was completed.

“Following the completion of this project survey, a series of repair and reinstatement measures were undertaken to address any damage that had been caused to the roads during the construction period.

“SSE Renewables liaised with Highland Council’s roads department at all stages of this process to ensure the work was in line with their expectations.”

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