The wait goes on this week for Ross-shire people anxious to hear the outcome of proposals for a controversial wind farm which has split a local community.
Despite a three-and-a-half hour hearing on Tuesday afternoon, the decision on the 20-turbine farm at Fairburn Estate in Strathconon, near Muir of Ord, remains undetermined.
More than 100 objections were lodged against the development which raised issues from the impact it would have on the reintroduced red kite population, to what many feared would be a detrimental effect on tourism.
However, a 255-strong army of supporters believe the multi-million pound economic investment for the area makes the project, which was recommended for approval by planners, too valuable to miss.
Councillors voted to defer any decision until a full assessment could be carried out on the local road network and an agreement reached on the route used by abnormal loads carrying turbine components, such as the 100m high blades.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which is behind the contentious application, had identified a route south through Conon Bridge, to Muir of Ord and west through Marybank. Although not the most direct route, it avoided both the Muir of Ord and Moy bridges, both of which are in need of being upgraded or renewed and are unsuitable for abnormal loads.
No objections were raised by either Highland Council or the trunk roads authority but the route was described “treacherous” at Tuesday’s hearing.
Leading a motion to defer the decision, Councillor Jean Urquhart said she remained unconvinced members would be doing the right thing, as far as infrastructure was concerned, if they approved the plan.
The issue put the replacement of the ageing Moy and Muir of Ord bridges back into the spotlight once again.
Seconding her motion, Black Isle councillor Isobel McCallum told the meeting: “I think the applicant’s route is treacherous and we have to stand by that.”
One of those who spoke in objection was well-known bird expert Roy Dennis who went to Sweden in 1989 to bring the first red kite to the Black Isle. They became the first kites to breed for 100 years after persecution had eliminated them in this country.
Mr Dennis said: “A survey carried out in the autumn recorded 35 red kites in 31 hours on the Fairburn Estate.
“This is where many of the red kites go for food at that time of the year, and it’s very important that the population is protected.”
He claimed the glens of east Inverness-shire and Ross-shire had always been regarded as “very special” areas for golden eagles, and was one of the areas now recommend for high levels of protection.
Another objector, Roy Baker of Scatwell Cottage, Strathconon, considered that the amount of material which would need to be excavated to accommodate the wind turbines would be detrimental to the environment.
“It’s unbelievable that anyone could allow this destruction to happen,” he said. “How much of the ecology of the area do we have to destroy in an attempt to save the environment through the development of wind farms?”
However, addressing councillors, planner Ken McCorquodale said nature conservation concerns would be addressed by a legal agreement which would set out measures SSE had to take to safeguard wildlife.
15 December 2007
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