Councillors are being urged to object to proposals for a windfarm on a prominent Moray hillside.
The move would prompt a costly public inquiry into Vento Ludens’s plans to build 19 410ft turbines at Brown Muir, three miles from Rothes, off the A941 Elgin-Rothes road.
The proposals have attracted vehement opposition from campaigners, and a petition attracted more than 2,000 signatures.
Now, local authority planning officials have claimed the visual impact of the windfarm would be “unacceptable and contrary to planning policy”.
Due to its scale, the plans have been submitted to the Scottish Government rather than Moray Council – but the authority is entitled to give a consultation response to ministers.
A report, which will be discussed by members of the planning and regulatory services committee tomorrow, calls on councillors to lodge an objection to Scottish ministers.
The document, written by principal planning officer Angus Burnie, outlines the “unacceptable landscape and visual impacts that would arise from the location, height and number of turbines on Brown Muir” as key grounds for objection.
Other remarks include the fact that Brown Muir is a “landmark hill which should be protected” and the claim that the proposal would not be a “sensitive development of renewable energy”.
Mr Burnie also recommends that the local authority ask to be consulted again if there are any changes to the current proposals.
He says the objection would prompt a public inquiry, which would be costly and time-consuming. Derek Ross, a member of the Save the Brown Muir action group and resident at nearby Glen of Rothes, said an inquiry would be a “waste of public money”.
The group has spoken out about the potential visual impact of the project, as well as the effect it could have on tourism.
Mr Ross said yesterday: “If councillors do vote against it, it clearly means it’s not wanted, so why waste our public money on a public inquiry? It’s obvious that the people in this area have had enough – it is saturated with wind turbines.”
He added: “The developers are not from the area. They don’t understand that people love Moray and they love where they stay.”
Jay Butler, of Vento Ludens, has said that the company embarked on an “exhaustive process of preparation and pre-application consultation”.
He told the Press and Journal previously that the firm was carefully considering all representations made by local groups, including Innes and Elgin community councils.
Talks will also be held tomorrow on the results of a recent consultation on Moray’s windfarm guidance.
A report – written by another of the council’s principal planning officers, Gary Templeton – outlines a raft of issues raised by the public and other agencies.
Cumulative impact, the importance of community funds and concerns about the Scottish Government “overriding local democracy” were all highlighted.
There was also concern about the council’s “inconsistent decision-making”.
The planning and regulatory services committee will also discuss the proposed Telford, MacColl and Stevenson offshore windfarm developments at tomorrow’s meeting in the council chambers.
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