Councillors visit site of controversial Highland wind farm

The site of the proposed development at  Lochluichart with Ben Wyvis in the background
The site of the proposed development at Lochluichart with Ben Wyvis in the background
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COUNCILLORS have viewed the site of a controversial 34-turbine windfarm proposal visible from a number of famous Munro peaks in the Highlands.

The Glenmorie scheme in Ross-shire, between Ardross and Ardgary, is being recommended for approval by planning officials despite over 300 objections.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) claim approval would send a message that the north of Scotland was “open house for massive industrial-scale wind farms”.

The body, which represents 11,000 climbers and hillwalkers, say the proposed development would be “intrusively visible” from Munro mountains such as Ben Wyvis, Beinn Dearg and those in the Fannichs.

Edinburgh-based Wind Energy (Glenmorie) has applied to the Scottish Government to build the turbines, each standing 410ft high.

There have been 209 objections made to the Government, with 32 in support, and an additional 121 objections, with one letter of support, to Highland Council, which debates the application on 27 November.

MCofS Chief Officer David Gibson said: “We are talking here about one of Scotland’s finest mountain areas, an area of outstanding natural beauty, and one which visitors from around the world associate with Scotland’s unique natural heritage.

“Unless the Highland Council object in the strongest possible terms to this intrusive proposal, they will demonstrate a lack of stewardship and send a strong message to the renewables industry that the Highlands of Scotland are open house for massive industrial-scale wind farms.”

He added: “This situation clearly demonstrates why the Scottish Government must call a halt to wind farm developments in the mountains now, and agree a national spatial planning policy for the siting of wind farms.

“The importance of our mountain areas to tourism is not challenged by the government which has designated 2013 as the Year of Natural Scotland: unless the development of wind farms in the mountains is halted now, 2014 may well be the year when the Lights are on but no-one is Homecoming.”

The McofS claims Highland Council could be reacting to pressure from the Scottish Government in a bid to meet targets of having 50% of electricity demand from renewables by 2015, and 100% by 2020.

Planning officer Ken McCorquodale states in his report: “The application will have little impact on local properties and settlements.”

The report adds: “Representations that argue against investment in renewable energy can only be given limited weight given the very positive stance by the Scottish Government.”

Natasha Lawrence, the windfarm’s project manager, said: “We believe this development is suitable for this site and this opinion is reflected by the fact that none of the statutory consultees have outstanding objections.”

The councillors of the planning committee paid a visit ahead of meeting next month to vote on the proposal, which is to go to the Scottish Government for a final decision.