Campaigners battling £53million proposals for a 22-turbine wind farm near Lochluichart yesterday welcomed a planning chief’s recommendation to object to the scheme.
The knock-back is in line with Highland Council’s own presumption against major wind farm development in the area but will come as a bitter blow to consortium LZN Ltd which, it has emerged, has signalled a willingness to reduce further the number of turbines to 17.
Highland Council, whose Ross and Cromarty Area Planning Committee will form a view on the proposal at a special site meeting on Tuesday next week, has received 1,826 timeous objections to the 66MW scheme. It has also received 853 letters of support on an issue which has bitterly divided the Garve and Lochluichart communities and prompted threats of legal action from rival estates.
Planning director John Rennilson defines the key issues as visual impact of the development and the fact that it is within Beinn Dearg and Ben Wyvis’s Areas of Great Landscape Value. He adds, “As a high proportion of representations received indicated that this would put off existing visitors from returning, there may well be adverse impacts upon tourism in the locality.”
A spokesman for the Wind Farm Too Far campaign congratulated planners for “taking a sober look at a contentious application” but indicated no room for complacency.
“The battle is not won. Ross and Cromarty councillors have still to decide whether to accept or reject their official’s recommendation having heard both sides of the argument at next week’s planning meeting.
“Councillors are under great pressure from all quarters. We can only ask that they take account of their own experts’ view and recommend to the Scottish ministers that this application be refused.
“There is a queue of wind farm planning applications lined up for far more suitable sites. The Highlands can still fulfil its commitment to renewable energy without this wind farm which has in any case been twice rejected by community ballot.”
No one could be contacted at LZN Ltd yesterday as we went to press.
A final say on the issue will be taken by the Scottish Executive, which is in favour of increasing renewable energy but currently faces a backlog of wind farm applications.
By Hector MacKenzie
13 April 2007