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Site visit may be ruled out on wind farm planning proposal

Controversial plans for the Highlands’ biggest wind farm – an 83-turbine development in the hills above Loch Ness – are set to be decided on Tuesday without councillors visiting the site, prompting anger from anti-wind farm campaigners.

Planning officers are recommending Highland Council raises no objection to the proposed Stronelairg development near Fort Augustus by energy giant, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

Originally, the company sought to construct 144 turbines although, following consultations with planners, it is willing to scale it back from the 83 currently proposed to 67.

The scheme, featuring turbines up to 443ft high in the Monadhliath Mountains, has attracted strong opposition from a broad range of groups and individuals while environmental agency Scottish Natural Heritage has also objected on the grounds it would have an adverse impact on wild land. Others maintain it would contribute to “a ring of steel” around Loch Ness.

But it has emerged there are no plans for the south planning applications committee to visit the site.

SSE’s 36-turbine Bhlaraidh wind farm at Glenmoriston was also given the go-ahead last year without a site visit, prompting fury from anti-wind farm campaigners.

Pat Wells, convener of Stop Highland Windfarms Campaign, said it was “inconceivable” councillors would make a decision on Stronelairg without seeing the area.

Campaigners have urged councillors to follow the

example of the north plan-ning committee which this week ignored planning officers’ recommendations to approve the Dalnessie and Glenmorie wind farms in Sutherland after visiting the sites.

A council spokeswoman said there was no statutory requirement for councillors to visit and planning officers would not recommend one because of the difficulty in reaching the location.