Developers behind proposals for a controversial 22-turbine Ross-shire windfarm claimed yesterday to have secured permission for a connection to the national grid despite not having council approval for the scheme itself.
Opponents of the project, planned for Lochluichart Estate near Garve which is owned by former National Trust for Scotland chairman Hamish Leslie Melville, yesterday branded the statement “arrogant” and typical of what they regard a flawed planning system.
The downsized proposal from Anglo-Dutch consortium Infinergy, which originally hoped for 43 turbines each 400ft high, does not come before the Ross and Cromarty area planning committee until next week.
The developers said the connection agreed would involve the replacement, near Beauly, of 1.2miles of the existing 132kV overhead power lines with an underground cable.
Infinergy chief executive Charles Sandham said: “Overall, the impact of the existing 132kV overhead line will be reduced.
“We are also delighted that the proposed windfarm is no longer dependent on the outcome of the Beauly-Denny 400kV inquiry. We know this is what local people would want and we hope that this plan now goes forward.”
A spokeswoman for the National Grid, however, denied agreement was final.
She said: “We’re working on it and I think they’re quite close to us, but the final, formal offer has not been given.”
Opponents of the scheme argue that wildlife, natural landscape and tourism would all suffer if the turbines are built on hills between lochs Luichart and Glascarnoch, and would be visible from peaks including Ben Wyvis in Easter Ross and from An Teallach near Ullapool.
The Stop Lochluichart Wind Farm Campaign, which boasts the support of 2,000 people, described the timing of Infinergy’s announcement as “breathtaking in its arrogance”.
A spokesman accused the developer of “attempting to pressurise councillors into accepting the windfarm as a fait accompli”.
He added: “This announcement smacks of deliberate timing designed to exert maximum pressure on councillors when they discuss the application next week.
“This is not just spin it is breathtaking, high-handed arrogance. Infinergy is clearly desperate since two local community ballots rejected their plans.”
Bob Graham, chairman of Highlands Against Wind Farms, said: “Infinergy’s announcement smacks of intimidation to influence the planning hearing. However, I’d be very surprised, in light of the presumption in favour of windfarms by Highland Council, if this doesn’t receive anything other than full approval from the council.”
He added that councils were frequently faced with a huge cost of windfarm appeal hearings and that it had become the norm for developers to attempt to “intimidate” local authorities by appealing against refusal.
By Iain Ramage
11 April 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding