The Scottish Government has approved plans to build a 225-megawatt (MW) wind farm on uplands near Forres, overturning objections by local planners.
Moray councillors opposed plans for the 48-turbine Clash Gour scheme proposed by developers EDF Renewables and Glasgow-based Force9 Energy in 2019, sparking a long-running public enquiry.
Under their proposals, developers intend to build a wind farm of up to 48 turbines with tip heights of 130-180m on land at Dunphail estate, Altyre estate and Dallas Forest, around 7 miles south of Forres and 10 miles south-west of Elgin.
Plans also include the addition of various site infrastructure alongside a 50MW battery storage installation.
In its 2019 response, Moray Council’s planning team said Clash Gour would cause “unacceptable” damage to the landscape by creating a wave of interconnected wind farms between Hill of Glaschyle, Berry Burn and Paul’s Hill – each of which lie just a few miles away – leaving them almost impossible to tell apart.
Alongside Moray Council, objections were lodged by SEPA and Inverness Airport, though both were later withdrawn – the latter after developers agreed to implement a radar mitigation scheme to prevent interference with flight operations.
Community Councils from Speyside and Finderne also lodged objections, though Forres’ remained neutral on the matter, according to a final decision letter published by the Scottish Government on 21 October.
In their letter, ministers “acknowledge that the proposed development will have
significant adverse landscape and visual effects, including effects on the Dava Way as a tourist asset, as well as some significant adverse effects on views from residential properties.”
However, they found that these negative impacts “are acceptable in the context of the net economic benefits and significant renewable energy benefits, in support of climate change mitigation.”
Moray Council has been approached for comment.
£34m for local community
Meanwhile, Force9 has said the scheme would be capable of powering at least 145,000 homes once complete and pointed to a host of community benefits included in its plans.
The two companies said Clash Gour’s three-year construction period has the potential to secure around 391 net person years’ employment, and once operational will provide between 14-19 full time equivalent jobs in Moray.
EDF said it would allow community groups in and around Moray to collectively invest up to 5% of the value of the scheme, and also committed to community benefit payments at the Scottish Government recommended rate of £5,000 equivalent per MW, per annum.
At the proposed 225MW capacity, this would mean a payment to local communities of up to £1.125 million per year for each year the project’s 30-year lifespan, totalling nearly £34m.
In a statement seen by Renews, EDF Renewables head of UK onshore wind investments Claire Jones said: “We are pleased that the Scottish government has approved our planning application for Clash Gour wind farm. The wind farm will go a great way to accelerating our efforts to meeting the country’s net zero and climate change targets.
Ms Jones said the partners had worked closely with local communities and Moray Council throughout the process, and promised “a huge positive impact for the local area.”
The approval comes amid a groundswell of local objections to proposed wind farms across the northeast and Highlands, including an 11-turbine scheme near the village of Rosehall and RES’ plans to build 17 giant turbines on the Hill of Fare near Banchory.