A controversial bid to build three turbines on low lying farmland near Cromarty has come to nothing after an appeal against refusal was turned down.
Bright Spark Energy Ltd lost its appeal for the almost 70-metre structures to be built on land at Davidston Farm after the reporter Richard Dent found they would lead to a visual impact of an “unacceptably adverse level” from the main road.
In his written judgment Mr Dent said he did not consider that the proposal is located “in the right place.”
However, Mr Dent claims it is the visual impact of the turbines from the A832 road which is the “crucial factor”, while the planning committee which rejected the plan were mainly concerned about the turbines being “in the faces” of the residents who lived close by.
The north planning committee heard in January that the Cromarty Community Council organised a consultation which concluded that 57 people living in 72 local households were opposed to the turbines construction.
The application was rejected after chairwoman Councillor Isobel McCallum lodged a motion that the turbines would have an unacceptable impact on the natural environment – including the landscape, character and the Davidston residents – which was passed by seven votes to five.
She told the committee then: “I believe that these turbines are not in the right location. The view of the community is quite clear in their representations to the questionnaire organised by the community council.”
The council’s planners had recommended approval because their impact was “negligible” from a distance and “not significant” locally.
In the appeal decision, issued by the directorate for planning and environmental appeals, Mr Dent said he had looked at the range of impacts the turbines would have and considered “all but one” as acceptable.
He found the proposal would not have a significantly adverse impact on natural or cultural heritage, road safety, tourism and noise.
He also concluded the turbines would have a relatively minor impact on landscape and would not justify the withholding of planning permission.
Mr Dent also said that he did not believe the turbines would be so dominant on nearby residential properties as to warrant planning refusal.
However, he went on to say: “It is my opinion that the visual impact of the proposed turbines from the A832 is the crucial factor in the overall assessment of the development.”
He also pointed to Scottish Natural Heritage’s comment that the introduction of such a scale of development in a landscape of coastal farmland is relatively uncommon in the part of Scotland. Mr Dent added it was particularly significant that a report considered the appearance of the turbines as “very dramatic”.
“I consider that the three turbines, within the low-lying farmland setting, between approximately 350 and 550 metres from the A832, would lead to a visual impact of an unacceptably adverse visual level,” he said.
Mr Dent added he believed the turbines would be “scenically detrimental” on a local level.
His report concluded by saying: “The appellant has indicated a belief that certain procedural defects during the consideration of the application by the committee were unfair and prejudicial to the outcome. The council has responded to these criticisms. The appellant has also expressed concern in respect of the terms of the reasons for refusal. My decision does not rely on the committee’s decision-making process. In my opinion, the reasons are intelligible and, although I have not agreed with all aspects of the two reasons, my endorsement of the concern about visual impact has led to the appeal being dismissed.”
The decision has been welcomed by local campaigners who mounted a protest against the plans.
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