Councillors have vetoed plans for three wind-speed measuring masts and criticised their own energy policy for failing to give guidance on dealing with anemometer applications.
Highland Council’s renewable energy strategy was published in May to provide supplementary planning policy in support of the region’s development plan.
And although anemometer masts are designed to provide information on future windfarm proposals, officials say they do not constitute renewable energy proposals so are not covered by the policy.
But their omission was yesterday criticised as “quite disturbing” by councillor Charlie King at a meeting of the council’s Lochaber area planning committee.
“If we are not being shown how to deal with such applications, then why bother producing a policy document,” he told colleagues.
“It find it quite disturbing that we have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in doing so and yet we have been given no guidance on how we should proceed.”
Spanish-based Gamesa Energy UK had sought year-long consent for three 70-metre high anemometer masts west of Allt Beithe Beag, south of Aberchalder Forest and at Teanga Beag at Glen Albyn Invergarry.
The application had drawn just one objector, David Govan, of Corpach, who argued that the sites were in an area where there was a “presumption against development.”
Mr Govan claimed the strategy would be null and void if the applications were approved. “Particularly as the applicant was represented as part of a working group involved in the preparation of the strategy,” he said in a report considered by councillors.
He argued that the masts, which were close to special geological formations and the well-used General Wade’s military road, would “ruin the landscape.”
However, Dafydd Jones, area planning manager, emphasised that whether or not the masts were erected, they would have no impact on the validity of the renewable energy strategy.
The masts had to be considered solely on their merits and not as a precursor to any wind farm development, which would require a separate application.
But councillors rejected the proposals in a five-two vote, which could result in the issue landing on a Scottish minister’s desk. Previous refusals for masts or renewal of temporary consents have been overturned by Holyrood on appeal.
Councillor Bill Clark said the masts would intrude into a wilderness area and be clearly visible while Neil Clark called for the issue to be deferred pending preparation of a new policy on anemometer applications.
But chairman, Drew McFarlane Slack, emphasised the masts would have no visual impact and that by confusing the applications with the authority’s energy strategy, colleagues were “digging themselves into a hole”.
by Ken Jones
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