Scottish and Southern Energy’s plans for a 90 million, 33-turbine wind farm on the north side of Strathy Forest, have gained the support of the local authority.
The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Planning and Review Committee held a site visit and special meeting at Strathy on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The decision on whether or not the development will go ahead lies with the Scottish Government, because its output will be over 50Mw.
However, Highland Council is a statutory consultee.
Just five members of the 13-strong north planning committee were present at Tuesday’s meeting, which clashed with a licensing board meeting.
Councillor George Farlow, north west and central Sutherland, was the only local representative, as both his two ward colleagues were unavailable.
Councillor Linda Munro was involved in a schools recruitment interview and Councillor Robbie Rowantree had already declared an interest as a self-employed contractor working for Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).
Some 169 objections to the development were lodged, with only six letters of support.
Conservation bodies, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Marine Scotland, have lodged objections.
Concern lies with the likely visual impact and its effect on the environment and on tourism.
Planners recommended that the development be supported, saying there were no “material considerations” to suggest that approval should be withheld.
Councillor Farlow said he was satisfied that there were no planning grounds to go against the recommendation.
Committee vice-chairman, Robert Coghill, expressed concern that 900 hectares of trees would have to be felled to make way for the wind farm.
He was also worried about the proliferation of wind farms in the far north, saying: “We now have a wind farm landscape and we will not be able to view our natural heritage without seeing industrial buildings.”
Councillor Coghill said he did not see how he could support the application and asked for his misgivings to be recorded.
Councillor Richard Durham, Tain and Easter Ross, mentioned the possibility of a follow-up planning application to cover the south side of Strathy Forest, with a further 77 turbines.
“It does seem to me that they do rather impact on one another,” he said.
But after discussion, it was agreed that the application should be supported.
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