Plans for three controversial Highland windfarms were stopped in their tracks yesterday – to the delight of local objectors.
One group went as far as hailing the decisions as a potential turning point in the battle against turbines in the north.
Highland councillors agreed to raise objections to the Glenmorie and Dalnessie developments, both planned for remote wild land in Sutherland.
The two windfarms would have meant another 61 turbines added to the landscape – but now each faces a planning inquiry. One councillor, Maxine Smith, said the sites had a sense of tranquility which would have been affected by the proposals.
It also emerged proposals for 17 more turbines on Clach Liath, part of the iconic Ben Wyvis massif, have been refused by planning officials.
Falck Renewables’ plan for the 416ft devices attracted considerable objections from local residents and the mountaineering community, including celebrity mountaineers Hamish MacInnes and Cameron McNeish.
Last night protesters cautiously welcomed the Clach Liath refusal, made by planners under delegated powers.
The developers said they were waiting to study planners’ reasons before deciding whether to appeal to the Scottish Government.
Meanwhile, the developers of the Glenmorie and Dalnessie windfarms said they were disappointed with the council’s decision, which triggers two public local inquiries. The decision to object to the Dalnessie development was taken on the casting vote of the chairwoman of the north planning applications committee, Isobel McCallum, after members were split five votes to five.
Ms McCallum said the plans for 27 turbines would have a detrimental impact on the area.
Councillor Smith said the proposals would have a major effect on the landscape. She said: “It will have a massive cumulative impact on tourism in the Highlands, which is famed for its views. It can only have a negative effect on the Highland economy.”
But her SNP colleague Councillor George Farlow supported planning officers’ recommendation to raise no objection and said the site was not wild land but “a wet desert”.
Earlier, councillors agreed unanimously to object to the Glenmorie windfarm, with one member, Councillor Mike Finlayson, saying it was “a windfarm too far”.
Another councillor, Angela Maclean, said she felt “claustrophobic” when councillors visited the site last month because of the existing turbines in the area.
After the meeting , Ardross Community Council secretary John Edmondson said: “I am delighted, but it is a case of battle won but not the war. We still have to convince the inquiry reporter that the arguments we presented to the council are strong enough to prevent it being built.”
He said there would be a “ring of steel” around the community if the windfarm was approved.
There are three windfarms already in close proximity to Ardross – Novar 1 and 2 and Ben Tharsuinn. A further seven windfarms are operational within 21 miles of the Glenmorie site.