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Anger as wind farm proposal gets go-ahead

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The Scottish Government reporter has overturned Highland Council’s refusal of a wind farm planning application, despite widespread local opposition.

The north planning committee also learned yesterday that operator Energiekontor has already said it wants to increase the height of the wind turbine tips.

Chairwoman Maxine Morley-Smith branded the developers “sneaky” and “greedy”, warning that locals will be very unhappy with the Scottish Government decision.

Strathrory wind farm in Ardross, Alness, was rejected by councillors last June.

Proposals for the seven-turbine wind farm attracted more than 50 objections from the local community.

The main issue under debate was the visual impact of the development on the area, which already has five wind farms.

In a motion tabled by Ms Morley-Smith, the council argued that the development would have a significant detrimental visual impact, contrary to Policy 67 of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan. The motion won by nine votes to three.

However, the Scottish Government has upheld an appeal from Energiekontor, and granted planning permission.

Government planning reporter Keith Bray says he made a site visit and believes the landscape would not be overwhelmed by large wind turbines.

He concludes that the landscape is “influenced” but not “dominated” by wind farms.

Now, council planners say Energiekontor has already made plans to vary its application. Last week, the operator served notice that it will apply for a modification to allow larger blade tip heights.

It says this change is due to lower than expected wind speeds on site.

“The developers are already coming back and asking for more,” said Ms Morley-Smith.

“It’s pure greed. It’s very sad to see a development going down this route, which people will find sneaky. I don’t like it.”

Caithness councillor Donnie Mackay shared her view. “Now you understand what I’ve been shouting about for a long time,” he said, referring to wind farm applications in Caithness.

SNP councillor Raymond Bremner said the committee listened to community voices and made a “robust” argument to the Scottish Government.

The reporter, however, applied the letter of the law. “This is beyond politics,” he added.
Ms Morley-Smith concluded: “What’s the point of having a local planning committee at all? We may as well just ask the Scottish Government.”

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