'Whisky' wind farm rejected by one vote
CONTROVERSIAL plans for a giant wind farm straddling the hills between two iconic whisky-making glens on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park have been rejected.
Infinergy, a Dutch renewable energy company, had lodged plans to develop a 59-turbine wind farm in the heart of Speyside at Hill of Dorenell on the Glenfiddich Estate near Dufftown.
The 185 million development attracted more than 600 objections, including protests from a coalition of leading local businesses – two whisky distilleries, William Grant & Sons and Glenfiddich, and Walkers of Aberlour, the famed shortbread makers – who claimed the move would permanently damage the area's "sacred" whisky country.
The Cairngorm National Park Authority also lodged objections to the development, which would be sited just over a mile outside the boundary of the national park.
At a special meeting in Elgin, Moray Council's planning services committee yesterday voted to object formally to the scheme on the casting vote of the committee's chairman, Councillor Stewart Cree, after a 4-4 split.
The committee's decision to object to the plan has triggered a public inquiry into the application which will eventually be decided by Scottish Government ministers.
Officials at Moray Council had recommended that councillors refuse the application, stating that it did not conform to the local plan and could affect tourism in the area.
Councillor John Russell, the Independent councillor for Elgin North, moved that the committee should back the official's recommendations.
He said: "If we give a positive recommendation to Scottish Government, we will severely breach our policy in relation to areas of great landscape value and we will be creating a precedent for non-preferred areas.
"Everyone in this chamber will not dispute that Moray is a beautiful county, but it does not have an abundance of areas of great landscape value and those we do have need protection.
"We owe it to the people of Moray today and also for the next generation to set the wheels in motion for an independent assessment of Moray's capacity to absorb more wind farms at the apparent expense of some our greatest assets – Moray's natural beauty and rugged landscapes."
Councillor Allan Wright, the depute convener, backed the motion. He said: "This application is in conflict with the council's strategy for wind farm location. That is indisputable and that is a strong enough basis, in my book, for lodging an objection."
But Michael McConnachie, the SNP councillor for Speyside Glenlivet, argued that the application for the massive wind farm should be supported by the council.
He claimed there was strong local support for green energy. And he said: "If you look and analyse the area most affected – the Cabrach area – well over 90 per cent of the letters were in favour of the development."
The Infinergy application involves the erection of turbines 126 metres high, and two monitoring masts on The Hill of Dorenell, which has three separate summits with Cook's Cairn the highest point at 755 metres.
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