Conservation charity the John Muir Trust has welcomed a decision by Highland Council to object to a proposed windfarm that would be partly built on designated “wild land” in Sutherland.
The Caplich scheme, three miles north of Oykel Bridge, was to be considered at next week’s north planning committee meeting – but officials registered the objection after consulting with local councillors.
Lanark-based Muirhall Energy is planning 20 turbines up to 433ft (132metres) tall. The application will be decided by the Scottish Government.
The trust’s policy officer John Low said the objection was in line with decisions last year to refuse applications for large-scale schemes at Limekilns, Allt Duine, Carn Gorm, Glencassley and Sallachy.
“We’re heartened that wild land is now receiving the protection it deserves,” he said.
“We’ve long argued that instead of covering Scotland’s wild land with turbines, pylons, power lines and access tracks, these areas could be transformed into living landscapes with local communities benefitting from nature-based jobs and year-round tourism.”
Disappointed by the council’s objection, project manager Peter Marshall said: “It’s concerning that they’ve decided not to follow the full democratic process and have instead made a decision under delegated powers in much the same way as a planning application for a house extension or a set of dormer windows would be determined.
“There appears to have been little consideration of the local economic benefits and a far greater emphasis placed on the long range views from mountain tops within the Assynt Coigach National Scenic area and on visibility from neighbouring ‘wild land areas’ – a designation which has been drawn by computer from an SNH office in Perth.”
Councillors have, meanwhile, been advised by their officials to approve a 16-turbine extension to SSE’s 35-turbine Gordonbush Windfarm at Brora when they meet next Tuesday.
The towers would be up to 427ft (130metres) tall. The decision was deferred for a site visit to be held on Monday.
Its operators SSE collected £137,394 compensation from electricity customers for the first five days of 2016 for switching off Gordonbush as part of the National Grid’s regular balancing of the electricity network.
That windfarm alone has received more than £10million in such payments since 2012.
SSE’s proposal to add turbines has prompted a single letter of support and 12 objectors’ letters.
The north planning committee will also be updated on a planned seven-turbine extension to Bettyhill Windfarm by Edinburgh-based BH Wind Energy involving turbines up to 410ft (125metres) high that would take its complement to nine turbines.