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Anger over Council's windfarm decision  

Highland Council’s shock withdrawal of its objection to one of two proposed windfarms in Sutherland at the end of a three-and-a-half-week joint planning inquiry has upset the other developer.

Scottish Executive inquiry reporter Janet McNair conducted a joint hearing of Airtricity’s appeal against refusal of planning permission for a 23-turbine windfarm on Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed’s Invercassley Estate at Beinn Rosail, Strath Oykel, near Rosehall, and an appeal by Scottish and Southern Energy regarding 23 turbines at Achany, near Lairg.

The council opposed both appeals throughout the inquiry but, in her closing submissions on Tuesday, the council’s solicitor, Susan Bleasek, said: “It is not considered appropriate to make a submission to this inquiry that there is any basis in law to refuse the Achany appeal.” And Alan Baker, who is chief executive of Airtricity in Scotland, yesterday said his company was “surprised and disappointed” by the council’s decision.

He said: “We believe its renewables policy is now uncertain because it clearly isn’t consistent with national government policy.”

In September of last year, the council’s planning, development, Europe and tourism committee considered the Invercassley and Achany proposals alongside a third application by E.On UK Renewables for 19 turbines at nearby Rosehall Hill Forest.

It approved the Invercassley and Rosehall Hill Forest applications, but rejected the Achany proposal.

However, the Invercassley decision was challenged by eight councillors and was then refused by a majority of 19 votes to 11. Both SSE and Airtricity appealed against refusal of planning permission. Following the council’s U-turn at the inquiry on Tuesday, local windfarm objectors demanded an explanation for the decision.

And Highland Council planning director John Rennilson yesterday said the council put up its own planning and landscape architect witnesses, but the opposition fielded a strong legal team.

“Under cross examination, we had to concede that the renewable energy strategy, which had been approved by the council in May 2006, had to some extent been superseded by Scottish Executive guidance issued in March 2007,” said Mr Rennilson.

Mr Rennilson added that the council maintained that the Invercassley appeal should be refused because it had successfully defended its landscape objection to that development.

The Press and Journal

16 August 2007

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