Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Terry Butcher and opponents of a plan to build the tallest wind turbines in Scotland are celebrating after the scheme was rejected by councillors.
Highland councillors agreed unanimously to oppose the 490ft high turbines in the hills to the west of Loch Ness.
However, the council’s formal objection means it will now be up to Scottish ministers to decide whether the 23 turbine plan, in Blairmore Forest between the Inverness-shire communities of Kiltarlity and Drumnadrochit, can go ahead. A public inquiry is likely.
The developers, Druim Ba Sustainable Energy, said the project could provide enough electricity to meet the needs of 38,000 homes and over the life of the wind farm there would be employment opportunities amounting to “975 full-time equivalent job years”.
As part of the project, it was proposed a community benefit of £310,500 per year would be paid to the local communities, contributing more than £7 million over the life of the scheme.
The company said: “Our project aims to help local communities to harness their natural resources to generate carbon-free electricity while simultaneously creating employment opportunities, economic benefits, recreational benefits and a cleaner environment.”
But it divided local opinion, with four community councils opposing the plan and only one supporting it. Of the 758 representations sent to the council, 420 were for and 330 against.
Among the opponents was former England and Rangers captain Terry Butcher and his wife Rita, who live at Abriachan near to the proposed development.
He used his column in a local paper to make clear his own position ahead of the planning committee meeting. He wrote: “If the committee is in favour of the proposal then a monstrous eyesore will be created within one kilometre of one of the loveliest walks in Scotland.
“A great deal of hard work has been undertaken by the Abriachan Forest Trust to create a wonderful sporting and educational environment adjacent to the Great Glen Way, which would then contrast dramatically with 23 of the biggest turbines in Britain.” He said councillors should throw out “this ridiculous scheme”.
The councillors voted against the plan after a site visit where campaigners organised for a huge balloon to demonstrate the highest of the proposed turbines. Councillors supported their planning officials’ recommendation to object to the development as it conflicted with policy and guidance.
In particular it was feared its size would have a detrimental visual impact on properties and communities immediately to the north, east and south of the site; and it was inconsistent with the policy to prevent a large-scale wind farm cluster from growing to a point where it impinges upon views in the Great Glen.
Local councillor Margaret Davidson said: “It is 23 turbines of 150 metres almost to the tip. That’s an extraordinary height, the tallest turbines in Scotland.” She said 200 of the objectors lived locally but of the supporters only 50 would see the wind farm.
Many were concerned by the likely impact on tourism. Inverness SNP councillor Donnie Kerr called the plan “obscene.” He questioned if it would affect attempts to get film companies to use the areas. He said: “When I was at school in Kiltarlity in the 1960s, they made the film Culloden up there. Would they do that surrounded by wind farms everywhere you look?”
Debbie Chawner, director of Druim Ba Sustainable Energy, said: “We are disappointed at the result and believe this is a missed opportunity.”
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