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A recommendation that up to nine turbines be removed from a controversial wind farm proposal has been made by Scottish Natural Heritage, as Ross-shire opponents call for a local inquiry into the scheme.
The Government-funded body, SNH, has lodged its response to plans for the 43-turbine Glenmorie Wind Farm, saying it raises natural heritage issues because of significant adverse impacts on the nearby Dornoch Firth National Scenic Area.
“We therefore object to this proposal unless it is made subject to mitigation through the removal of those turbines which would be visible within the NSA,” stated SNH in a document sent to Highland Council’s planning department.
A subsequent press statement from SNH explained the removal of five turbines would address SNH’s concerns about “significant impacts” on the Dornoch Firth.
It has also suggested it would be wise to consider removing four other turbines in an isolated group which could create additional landscape impacts from other viewpoints.
Steve North, SNH operations manager for South Highland, said, “We support renewable energy as a key means of addressing the climate change threat. The challenge for us all is to balance the needs of the renewable energy sector with those of nature and people’s enjoyment of the outdoors.
“We are confident that a wind farm can be accommodated at Glenmorie without nationally significant adverse impacts, provided some of the turbines are removed from the proposal.”
SNH also highlighted significant impacts on landscape around Ben Wyvis and expressed concern about the cumulative impacts of wind farm development in the area.
Developers, Wind Energy, has submitted plans to the Scottish Government for the wind farm on the Kildermorie and Glencalvie Estates and if approved it would provide enough electricity to power about 90,000 homes.
The nearby Ross-shire community of Ardross responded to the application by launching a Save our Straths website to protest against the proposals.
Ardross residents claim they already have 65 turbines surrounding the village, and with applications and scoping for more nearby wind farms, they could have 125 encircling the small community, which they say is two turbines for every household.
Contacted for comment regarding SNH’s response, Ardross Community Council secretary John Edmondson said this week the village has to deal with the application on the table, which is for 43 turbines, and they hadn’t fully discussed what the general feeling would be if nine turbines were removed from the plans.
“My feeling from the meetings that we have had is that the community believes that this particular wind farm is in the completely wrong position and even at 34 turbines that would be too many for this kind of area,” he said.
A number of objections have already been lodged through Highland Council’s eplanning service and the majority of them have requested that a local hearing take place to air public views.
An objection, from a local teacher, reads, “I certainly will never go back to this area I love if this wind farm is built. The wishes of the local community should have priority here and therefore a local hearing should be held.”
Another opponent wrote, “The reason that thousands of tourists visit the Highlands is slowly being scavenged away by these unsightly monsters appearing in our glens and straths.
“The tourism industry is a major economic activity in the area especially in the form of outdoor activities which benefit form the area’s unique natural environment. This proposed contribution to the over provision of wind turbines will be detrimental to the industry.”
A third objector stated, “The Ardross area already has more than its fair share of wind farms, but this development, unlike the existing turbines, represents an encroachment into genuinely wild country.”
The John Muir Trust has also objected to the plans due to the significant impact on views from Ben Wyvis, the Fannichs, Beinn Dearg and the Dornoch Firth, including around Skibo Castle.
Glenmorie Wind Farm LLP has previously said the development will contribute over £6million into the local economy over the lifetime of the project and would generate £8million in community benefits.
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