A wind turbine is to be built near the Scottish home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother despite planning officials admitting that it will have an “unwelcome” visual impact.
Highland councillors have approved the application for the 91ft turbine near the Castle of Mey in Caithness in the face of objections from a series of the Queen Mother’s former friends.
Among those to lodge objections were two of her biographers, Ashe Windham, the chairman of the trust that runs the Castle of Mey and the Queen Mother’s former equerry, and the Earl of Caithness.
But the councillors approved the planning application after deciding that most of the protesters did not live in the area and the Prince of Wales, who stays at the castle every summer, did not object.
The council’s north planning applications committee followed the recommendation of its officials that the scheme should be approved as it would have an “unwelcome” but not “unacceptable” visual impact.
The decision came after the Daily Telegraph disclosed last week the pressure the Scottish Government is exerting on local authorities to allow more wind farms.
Barrogill Angus, the farmer who is building turbine, had his original planning application rejected two years ago. He wanted to install a 20kw turbine on his land, less than half a mile from the castle, to generate his own power.
Under the revised plans that have been approved, the turbine will be 40ft shorter but 153 yards closer to the castle. Following the height reduction, objections from both the council’s historic environment team and quango Historic Scotland were removed.
However, more than 50 people objected over the impact on the castle and potential noise nuisance, including William Shawcross and Hugo Vickers, both biographers of the Queen Mother, and Lady Jean Gilmour.
Willie MacKay, an independent councillor for Landward Caithness, said 25 of the protesters resided in England, 15 had a home in Caithness and two lived in the parish of Canisbay, the site of the turbine.
Alex MacLeod, an independent nationalist, described the scheme as a “a fantastic example of farm diversification” and that such turbines would become part of the “natural” farm landscape as much as barns.
But Donnie Mackay, another independent, said: “We are spoiling it with single turbines and wind farms in Caithness. I would like to know if his Royal Highness Charles was asked about this development?”
Officials said it was up to the prince, who is known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, to have objected like anybody else. The castle has been run as a tourist attraction by a trust following the death of the Queen Mother in March 2002.
According to a report written by council planners, the turbine would not have a “major impact” because it was far enough away from the castle and partially screened by woods.
It admitted that the plan “has aroused considerable interest, particularly to those with a direct association with the Castle of Mey and the affection in which the deceased Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was regarded.”
But the report said that the objections could only be viewed as “anecdotal comment” unless proof could be provided that the turbine would have a negative impact.