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Dingwall farm turbine plans stalled

A row has blown up after councillors criticised the poor quality of photographs taken of the proposed Ross-shire locations for four new wind turbines.

Permission had been sought for a 45-metre-high turbine at Knockbain Farm, overlooking Dingwall, and three turbines, of a similar height, at nearby Somerby Farm, at Lochussie.

But a decision on whether to approve the separate plans – which had been recommended for approval by Highland Council planners but attracted 13 objections from community councils and local residents – was stopped in its tracks on Tuesday.

The authority’s north planning applications committee agreed to postpone decisions on both applications until next month after several members criticised the standard of photographs depicting the respective areas in the reports provided to them.

There were complaints about a lack of brightness in the photographs and omission of local landmarks including Ben Wyvis.

The committee chairwoman, Councillor Isobel McCallum, criticised the visualisations provided and it also emerged at one point there were not enough copies for councillors to peruse.

Developers must supply the council with photographs of sites and the surrounding area to professional standards so the potential impact of the turbines can be assessed by planners and councillors.

Strict rules state the images must be taken on a clear, fine day so the impact of turbines in a “worst-case scenario” can be clearly shown.

Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh councillor Audrey Sinclair was not comfortable in making any decisions on the turbine applications because of the poor photographs before her.

“The fact that Ben Wyvis disappears, I know this area had a poorer summer than we did have in the west, but there were some dry days,” she said.

Planning officer Julie Ferguson admitted some of the images were not good enough but said an official policy on the images used to consider small turbines had not yet been approved.

The Somerby Farm scheme, which was lodged by James Brown and Partners, and Knockbain Renewables’ application will now be considered by the committee on October 23.