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Objectors fail to block turbine near Ross hillfort

A new wind turbine at a Ross-shire farm has been given the go-ahead despite strong objections from Highland Council archaeologists who claimed it would have an “alien” effect on a nearby historic hillfort.

Councillors who approved the 45-metre-high turbine at Knockbain Farm above Dingwall during a meeting on Tuesday have suggested that it be painted a different colour than white so it can blend in with the landscape.

However, the granting of permission by the north planning applications committee has not gone down well with one objector.

Allan Lee of Maryburgh told the Journal: “I am very disappointed with the local councillors from the Dingwall and Seaforth ward on the planning committee who did not project the views of two community councils and many locals who objected to this proposal. Yet Councillor Graham Phillips representing the Sutherland area and having declared ‘financial interests in the windfarm industry’ at a committee meeting in June, manages to speak in support of this application. There seems to be something far wrong with the workings of this committee.”

Permission had originally been sought from Highland Council by developer Knockbain Renewables Limited last month but a row flared up after councillors criticised the poor quality of location photographs which were supplied.

Fresh pictures were therefore provided and the committee backed the controversial three-bladed turbine, despite a late objection from the local authority’s own historic environment team on the eve of the meeting.

It wanted the development to be thrown out because the nearby Knockfarrel Hillfort is a site of national importance.

Official Andrew Puls said in his statement that the turbine development would constitute a “significant impact” to the amenity of a nationally important archaeological site and said there were concerns it would set an unwelcome precedent that, if realised, would “very quickly erode the superlative setting and experience” currently enjoyed by visitors to Knockfarrel hillfort.

He said the fort was a well-known late prehistoric monument which dominated the surrounding landscape and the new turbine, on the back of the 45.8-high-metre high development at Dingwall Mart earlier this year and the potential Somerby scheme, would be completely alien.

“It is designated as a scheduled monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979,” stated Mr Puls.

“It is acknowledged that the hillfort enjoys wide sweeping views over a varied landscape. However, it is the view of the historic environment team that the turbines cumulatively would not be subsumed into this landscape, rather that cumulatively, the turbines will serve to narrow and detract from those views by forming an alien and artificial point of focus within the landscape.”

Nine objections and five letters of support were also sent to the local authority.

But planning official Julie Ferguson, who admitted the views from the fort were panoramic, recommended the committee approve the turbine because the “wide open” landscape would not be dominated by the new structure.

Committee member Councillor Drew Millar (Skye) said he thought the mart turbine was obtrusive, but Mrs Ferguson replied that the Knockbain turbine would be less so.

Councillor George Farlow (North, West and Central Sutherland) said it was important farms had the opportunity to remain sustainable and was in support, as was Dingwall colleague Margaret Paterson who admitted it was difficult because she could understand the opposition.

“We all know that this [application] meets our policy, they can appeal and nine times out of 10, sometimes even more they would win an appeal,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wester Ross councillor Audrey Sinclair suggested painting the new turbine a darker colour, possibly green, so it would blend in with the area better.

The committee agreed to impose a condition with the consent for the colour of the new turbine to be carefully considered.

A decision on three proposed turbines of a similar height at nearby Somerby Farm, Lochussie, is yet to considered by the committee because the quality of supplied photographs were not up to standard.