Claims windfarm would dominate horizon ‘subjective’, Highland Council says

Fraserburgh was chosen as an operations base for the Moray East windfarm
Fraserburgh was chosen as an operations base for the Moray East windfarm

A proposed objection to a giant Moray Firth wind project was not raised due to the claims being considered “subjective”, a Highland councillor has revealed.

Councillor Maxine Smith of the Cromarty Firth Ward said concerns published in last week’s North Planning Applications Committee report claiming the development would “dominate the horizon” were not deemed to be “of any significance”.

Plans for the 85-turbine Moray West Offshore Windfarm were considered on Tuesday, with planning officers expected to object to the site by suggesting it was “damaging” to north-east sea views.

The venture is due to begin construction in 2021 and could provide power for more than 900,000 homes.

Ms Smith said: “The reason I put forward the motion to raise no objection was because the reason for raising an objection was based on visual impact and we considered in the committee that visual impact is subjective.

“After listening to all the members, who talked about visibility, which is normally weather dependent in the sea up and down the Caithness coast, we decided that the visibility concern wasn’t going to be an issue of any significance and so we changed it to raise no objection.

“Also, that, balanced with economic benefits which will come to the whole of the highlands as a result of the windfarm, outweighed any detrimental visual impact that there would be.”

Ms Smith said the decision was reached after an hour and fifteen minute debate with councillors.

The debate was initially planned to be broadcast, however, the webcast was not working, according to the councillor.

Ms Smith added: “The purpose of a report coming to committee is to see if we agree with the officer’s recommendation. I would say 70% of the time we agree with the officer’s recommendation and 30% we don’t.

“There would be no point in anything coming to committee if all we did was rubber-stamp the reports.”

Earlier this week, a new survey carried out by market research firm Ipsos MORI found that of those households who will have a view of the Moray West Windfarm, only 12% actually oppose the development.

Commissioned by the Moray West Offshore Windfarm, the poll also found support for the development at 43% and those who had “no view either way” at 41%.

Ipsos MORI surveyed 500 residents, 80% of whom can currently see the 84-turbine Beatrice Offshore Windfarm construction from their property.