A DECISION over a controversial wind farm application in the Highlands has been taken out of a local council’s hands after a series of delays.
The seven-turbine Beinn Mhor scheme in Glen Affric, which attracted more than 1,200 objections, will now go to a Scottish Government reporter for a final ruling.
Developer wpd Scotland has successfully argued that Highland Council had not made a determination within an agreed timeframe.
The move to resolve the proposal more quickly came after a scheduled site visit by councillors from the south planning applications committee (Spac) this week was cancelled for a second time because of bad weather.
The application has now been subject to a total of six delays and the developer said it was vital for it to press on to secure planning permission in time to allow a connection date before April 2017, to take advantage of an enhanced subsidy.
Kyla Donaldson, the company’s Scottish project manager, said: “It has always been wpd’s preference for Highland Council to determine this application and we were disappointed that the committee was unable to make its most recent visit to the site and come to its decision.
“Our appeal for non-determination of the application at this stage is based on the very tight timescales we have for connecting the wind turbines to the electricity grid.
“The Beinn Mhor wind farm is one of the few projects in Scotland with a connection date before April 2017.”
A council spokeswoman said the proposed wind farm was classed as a major development, giving the authority four months to process the application.
She added: “The application was made valid on 1 May 2014 and, under normal circumstances, we would have until 31 August to come to a decision.
“However, in this case the council offered to enter into a processing agreement, which can be used to mutually agree a realistic timescale in which to determine a complex case such as this.
“The effect of this was to extend the time for determination of the application to 24 November 2014.”
But on 18 November, councillors decided that a site visit would be required. The spokeswoman said: “The site visit set in January had to be cancelled due to bad weather. The rearranged site visit also had to be cancelled on account of bad weather.”
As a result, the developer lodged an appeal against non-determination of the application and was successful in getting it referred to the Scottish Government, which will take several weeks to reach a decision.
The wind farm has met with fierce opposition, including from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) which claimed the turbines, standing at nearly 392ft, would destroy the scenic Glen Affric.
MCofS chief officer David Gibson said: “This site cannot support a wind energy development of the scale proposed without causing an unacceptable and intrusive impact on the important and iconic landscape, with consequent impacts on tourism.
“The area has high scenic value which is of international repute and popular with a wide range of visitors, not just mountaineers.
“If consented, the development could turn a landscape which is outstanding into something which is plain ordinary.”
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