CAMPAIGNERS fighting to stop Scotland’s tallest wind turbines being built near the Highland capital were celebrating last night after councillors voted to block the development.
Druim Ba Sustainable Energy wants to erect 23 masts up to 490ft high near Kiltarlity 10 miles north of Inverness.
Members of the 100-strong Druim Ba Say No group were jubilant outside the council’s HQ after all elected members of all political groups brand-ed the scheme “obscene”, “terrible” and “horrific”.
An emotional group secretary, Denise Davis, said: “I am extremely pleased to see that our local representatives have put aside personal opinions and party policy and voted against this development.
“Druim Ba’s proposal has been considered to be insensitively sited and its design in its entirety has disregarded the feelings, quality of life, and the survival of the livelihoods of the local residents who would be forced to live with it.”
Among the 230 objectors was Inverness Caley Thistle manager Terry Butcher who lives nearby and described the development as a “monstrous eyesore”. He did not attend the planning meeting yesterday.
The application attracted 428 letters of support.
Because of the size of the project it has to be considered by Scottish ministers – but campaigners hope the energy firm will abandon the plan following the council vote.
Ms Davis, whose home at Ardblair overlooks the site, said: “They should withdraw and save the taxpayer some money.”
Group spokeswoman Lyndsey Ward, from Beauly, said if the application went to a public inquiry the fight to block it would continue.
Members of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey planning committee made their decision after visiting five key viewpoints surrounding the proposed site in Druim Ba forest.
The turbines would be in individual clearings or “keyholes” in the woods.
Councillors were greeted by dozens of protesters who flew a huge red balloon near the site to represent the height of the turbines.
The council’s principal planner, Ken McCorquodale, said that from Abriachan Village Hall some of the single turbines and a number of overlapping turbines would be visible.
From the viewpoint nearest the site, in the hills above Glen Convinth, all 23 turbines would be visible.
At Kiltarilty, he said the view of the windfarm would provide a new focus in the landscape, changing its nature.
Local farmer and objector Lucinda Spicer, of Convinth Steading, Kiltarlity, said there were 25 houses within a mile of the windfarm, 122 houses within two miles, and 575 houses within three miles.
James Truscott, a consultant landscape architect for the energy firm, said many houses in sight of the turbines would have an “oblique” view of the windfarm rather than a direct one.
Warwick Lister Kaye, programme manager of Aigas Field Centre, said the windfarm would impact on his nature tourism business and that keyholing would “no more obscure the turbines than a blade of grass would obscure a man”.
Mr McCorquordale later asked councillors to reject the application because of the significant visual impact on properties and communities.
Aird and Loch Ness councillor Drew Hendry said: “This is a terrible location for this kind of development. It could not be satisfactorily located within the landscape as there is overwhelming visual impact.”
Culloden and Ardersier councillor Roddy Balfour said the local economy and tourism were fundamental and the council had to act as “custodians of the countryside”.
Inverness Central councillor Donnie Kerr said: “This proposal is obscene. The sheer impact on the landscape is just unbelievable.”
And Margaret Davidson, who is also a councillor for Aird and Loch Ness, said: “Druim Ba means a ridge and the turbines will be sited on the ridge and be highly visible to many people.”
A spokeswoman for the energy firm said: “We are disappointed at the result and still think this is a missed opportunity.”
The firm said the development had the potential to bring £100million of investment to the Highlands, along with 55 jobs.