Plans for a controversial windfarm on a Moray hillside have been scrapped – and replaced with proposals for a scaled-down scheme.
The revised Vento Ludens Ltd development at Brown Muir near Elgin would feature fewer turbines than the 19 originally proposed.
The company said it had reduced the number of masts because of the public outcry – but campaigners have already branded the firm’s move a “cynical ploy”.
Its decision, however, has saved Moray Council – which has objected twice to the scheme – the cost of an expensive public local inquiry.
The original plans met with vociferous opposition from residents, and a high-profile battle was launched by the Save the Brown Muir Action Group.
Derek and Marion Ross, of the group, believe it is an attempt to “dupe” the council.
Due to its size, the initial scheme would have been determined by Scottish ministers – but the new, scaled-down proposals will be considered by Moray Council’s planning committee.
A fresh scheme is now being drafted by Vento Ludens. It is not clear how many turbines will be removed from the original– but the firm hopes to produce a design which ensures not as many of the masts would be visible.
Dr Jay Butler, the company’s managing director, said she remained committed to Brown Muir as a windfarm site. She added: “We look forward to continuing to work alongside the local community in line with our comprehensive approach to consultation.
“We have received a lot of feedback, mostly constructive, from all stakeholders during this process so far.
“We are pleased to say there has been positive recognition that, environmentally, the development will have minimal impact, but we feel we can do more.
“Following an extensive review of the project and taking all points of view into account, my team and I have concluded that the proper course of action is to withdraw the current application and replace it with a new proposal that addresses the concerns both of the local people and statutory bodies.”
Dr Butler added: “One particular aspect of the preparation of the new planning application will be to work to improve the visual impact from nearby properties.
“As conscientious developers, we do our utmost to develop the right project in the right place.”
Derek and Marion Ross, who live at nearby Glen of Rothes, are members of the Save the Brown Muir Action group.
Mr Ross said he was sceptical about the plan to scale down the project.
He said: “It’s a cynical ploy. It’s what other wind companies have done. Moray Council should not be duped into changing their stance.”
But he said it was a “big boost” that the council’s planning committee would determine the project.
“We have confidence in them to make the right decision for the people of Moray,” he said.
“We have got to keep the campaign running.”
Douglas Ross, Conservative councillor for Fochabers- Lhanbryde and chairman of the council’s planning and regulatory services committee, welcomed the move.
He said: “This shows they have listened to the overwhelming majority of people who were strongly opposed to a development of this scale on this site.”
Councillor Ross added: “Local people, who may be for or against the plans, will hopefully take comfort in the fact that the decision lies with their own locally elected councillors.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The decision by Vento Ludens to withdraw their application will undoubtedly be welcomed by the large number of people in Moray who raised concerns about the proposals.
“This particular windfarm plan generated a lot of public interest, which appears to have been recognised in the company’s decision.”
He said he would be following further developments “with great interest”.
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