Government officials have been told they must not allow the expansion of a Speyside wind farm for fear it could have a catastrophic impact upon some of Moray’s finest landscapes.
The authority’s planning officers have objected to proposals that would see seven new turbines, each 500ft tall, erected to the east of Paul’s Hill.
A wind farm has been in operation on the Ballindalloch site since 2006, with 28 turbines generating energy for Fred Olsen Renewables.
The energy giant has lodged plans with the Scottish Government for Paul’s Hill II, with the extension to be sited on the hills of Carn na Dubh-chlais, west of Knockando.
Due to the size of the development, the proposals were submitted directly to the Scottish Government, with Moray Council invited to submit a consultation response to ministers.
The Ministry of Defence has already objected to the plan as it believes the turbines could disrupt military radar at Scotland’s most vital airbase.
RAF Lossiemouth is the UK’s first line of defence against air incursion by foreign powers – and Russia in particular – and is being readied to become home to a new wing of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
Now Moray Council planning officials have recommended to elected members on the planning committee that they lodge a second official objection.
They believe that the expansion will cause unacceptable landscape and visual impacts, given the position and height of the proposed turbines.
Neal McPherson, principal planning officer at the council, said: “While national policy provides support for renewable energy the proposal is not considered to be in full accordance with the local development plan policy and guidance.”
“The proposed turbines will encroach visually upon the more complex lower Spey Valley to the south and to the more settled Upper Knockando area to the east and north-east.”
Roy’s Hill – a local landmark – would also be detrimentally affected, according to planners, as the turbines would “diminish its distinctiveness” in the landscape.
Despite the concerns raised by planners and the MoD, fellow consultees Historic Environment Scotland and Mountaineering Scotland have offered no challenges to the proposals.
Moray Council’s planning committee will be expected to make a decision about whether to object today, with the Scottish Government then having the final say on whether the plans will go ahead.
Fred Olsen Renewables is also in the early stages of planning for up to 29 turbines, each more than 700ft tall, as part of the Rothes III development, north of Archiestown.
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross, who campaigned successfully against the Brown Muir wind farm near Rothes, fully endorsed the objection.
He said: “We are at saturation point with wind farms and this one is going to affect businesses depending on the wild landscapes up here.
“This one is close to encroaching on to Spey Valley, which is a jewel in the crown for Moray, and another key thing is that it encroaches on Roy’s Hill, another local landmark.
“Coating the hills in wind farms is suicide for tourism, people come here for the landscapes and these turbines will become some of the largest in Scotland.
“We’ve got enough already and they are accumulating so much.”