Councillors gave the green light to a controversial 20-turbine wind farm in Ross-shire this week, after a delay of a month to assess the best route.
The proposal by Scottish and Southern Energy for the wind farm in the hills of the Fairburn Estate near Muir of Ord was deferred from December 11 to allow Highland Council’s roads experts to decide on the route to be taken by heavy vehicles going to and from the site.
Finding the most suitable road route has been problematic since two bridges on the most direct routes – the Muir of Ord railway bridge and Moy Bridge – are sub-standard and Moy has a weight limit pending.
Council officials recommended that the preferred route should be from the port of Invergordon, where the wind turbine parts will be off-loaded, to Tore, then north before turning onto School Road in Conon Bridge, on to Muir of Ord and finally westward towards Marybank.
At Highland Council’s Ross, Skye and Lochaber planning committee meeting on Tuesday, members unanimously agreed the route which had been suggested by Conon councillor Angela MacLean.
Councillor MacLean persuaded colleagues that the advantage of this route would be to reduce disturbance upon on residents by taking a route through Conon Bridge and Maryburgh – the preferred access of Scottish and Southern Energy.
The meeting heard that the developers were wiling to contribute almost £700,000 to improve the road at a bad section known as the distillery bends at Muir of Ord, as well as improvements to School Road, Conon Bridge.
However the council was not able to ask the developer for a contribution to the £2.8 million cost of replacing Moy Bridge, the most direct route to the proposed wind farm, as it has not yet identified match funding for the project.
Black Isle Councillor Isobel McCallum said: “I think it’s a great pity that the council is not in a position to take advantage of a developer coming in with a contribution of almost £1 million for infrastructure because the obvious thing to do is to spend it on the Moy Bridge.
“This application has been on the go for the best part of two years and I think there should have been some sort of communication between planning and roads so that we were ready with our funding for Moy Bridge and able to capitalise on what amounts to a 30 per cent discount from a developer.
“We are ending up spending substantial amount of money on a road that is quite adequate at the moment – when really we need to spend it somewhere else.”
The proposed wind farm, covering about 1,235 acres on the slopes of Beinn an Rubha Riabhaidh, is not one of the council’s preferred sites for a major wind farm development.
More than 100 objections were lodged against it, while some 255 people supported the multi-million pound investment for the area.
At last month’s planning hearing, conservationists said the wind farm could have a detrimental effect on Golden Eagle and the recently re-introduced Red Kite population to which the Fairburn Estate is home.
An application for a £10 million wind farm on Hill of Nigg in Easter Ross will be lodged next week, it has been revealed.
Agents for European wind energy company, Falck Renewables, confirmed that it would be submitting the proposal for the controversial five-turbine farm near Rarichie early next week.
Falck says if developed successfully the wind farm would generate enough clean electricity to supply around 6,000 homes, and residents would have the chance to buy shares in its local wind farm.
However local campaign group, Nigg Awareness Group (NAG), say the development will have no direct local benefit because the power will go straight into the National Grid.
NAG says the 410ft turbines will dominate the entire area, including the Tarbat peninsula, the highest reaching 1,000ft above sea level. They urged people who had concerns about the wind farm to make representations to Highland Council’s planning department within 28 days of the application being lodged.
By Jackie MacKenzie
19 January 2008
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