Residents claim plans to build a windfarm near a picturesque Highland village will drive away holidaymakers and force businesses to close.
People at Kiltarlity have also accused developer Druim Ba Sustainable Energy (DBSE) of failing to properly research the impact of the scheme on tourism.
The company rejected the claims yesterday during the latest session of a public local inquiry, and said the windfarm would not be visible from iconic Loch Ness.
It has applied to build 23 490ft turbines in woodland on the Blairmore Estate, near Kiltarlity.
Steve Byford, who owns Ffordes Photography shop and Beauly Gallery, told the hearing, at Kiltarlity Village Hall, that he moved to the area 11 years ago because of its “visual beauty”.
Mr Byford, the chairman of Kilmorack Community Council, said: “I could have chosen anywhere to live but I chose my house because of the visual beauty, including the braes and the Beauly Firth out to Inverness.
“If this windfarm had been here at the time I wouldn’t have built my house there and I wouldn’t have my business here.”
DBSE was also criticised by Inverness West community council member Hilda Hesling.
She claimed its research into tourism in the area was not “adequate” and raised concerns it had not approached local tourism businesses to garner their opinions.
Tony Harrison, a tourism consultant hired by the company, told the hearing: “There is a lot of information which tells us that windfarms on their own do not make or break a person’s decision to return to a destination.”
He added: “Loch Ness and the Great Glen Way are two of the biggest tourism assets in this area.
“They are what brings the people in. Neither of these sites will be visually impacted by this development.”
Mr Byford said later that the community councils had concerns that other businesses would be put off coming to the area because of the windfarm.
He said: “It could definitely have an impact on businesses already here if others decided not to come, or even leave the area because of this development. The developers don’t seem to grasp the reality of the situation. If 20% of people stop coming to the area and businesses lose 20% of their profits, it would be critical to their survival. They could even be forced to close.”
The inquiry is due to continue today.
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