Highland councillors will this week consider applications for three windfarms on a six-mile stretch of picturesque countryside in central Sutherland.
If all are granted planning permission, 65 turbines could be erected on the hills around Rosehall and Lairg.
But Highland Council planning officers are recommending that the planning, development, Europe and tourism committee approves just one – a 19-turbine development by E.On UK Renewables Ltd at Rosehall Hill Forest.
The two recommended for refusal are SSE Generation Ltd’s application for 23 turbines at Achany Estate, Lairg, and an application for 23 turbines on land owned by Harrods chairman Mohamed Al Fayed at Beinn Rosail, Invercassley, Strath Oykel, by Airtricity Developments (UK) Ltd.
The Rosehall Hill Forest development is not only the smallest in terms of the number of turbines, but the proposed turbines are also shorter than those planned for the other two sites.
E.On wants to erect turbines that would measure 295ft to blade tip, whereas those proposed by SSE have an overall measurement of 345ft and Airtricity’s would be 328ft.
The Rosehall Hill Forest windfarm would also produce less power. It would produce 25 to 30MW of electricity, compared to Invercassley and Achany, which would each produce up to 46MW.
Local people have objected to each of the applications, concerned about the cumulative impact if permission were granted for more than one of them.
They believe the local economy would be seriously adversely affected by the windfarm proposals, both individually and cumulatively.
And the highest number of objections relate to the proposal that is recommended for approval. The council has received 39 objections to the Rosehall Hill Forest development, 38 for the Invercassley windfarm and 34 for the Achany proposal, with a 29-signature petition objecting to all three.
Councillors are due to visit the sites tomorrow with a public hearing of the applications being held at a special meeting of the planning committee at Lairg Community Hall, Lairg, on Friday starting at 9.15am.
A report to the committee by planning and development director John Rennilson points out that councillors must consider each application on its merits, but cumulative effects are a material consideration.
His report states: “In the case of the three applications under consideration, cumulative impacts are a major factor in determining the acceptability of the developments.
“The cumulative effects are not only on landscape and visual impacts, but can also include effects on natural heritage, roads, the loss of remoteness and wildness, effects on recreational uses and tourism and adverse effects on residential amenity from noise, shadow flicker effects and disturbance during construction.”
But he further points out that cumulative effects can also be positive and include the quantity of electricity generated, the restoration or enhancement of natural heritage sites and positive local economic effects.
Objections to all three applications focus on the landscape and visual impact of the proposed developments, the perceived lack of an overall policy for the location of windfarms and the effect of the proposals on birds, health issues, tourism and transportation issues.
Objectors to the Invercassley development are also concerned about the potential adverse effect of the proposal on river water quality, aquatic ecology and peat stability.
By Sue Restan
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