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Controversial Coigach turbine scheme gets the go-ahead

A Wester Ross community leader says talks with manufacturers are already under way after winning consent to build a solitary wind turbine – despite uproar from overseas objectors.

Eight years after a community-owned turbine was first mooted, the Coigach Wind Power Ltd got the go-ahead from Highland Council on Tuesday.

The 77-metre-high turbine had caused huge controversy with more than 250 objections, some of which came from Australia, Germany and Spain, lodged with the council.

In total almost 600 public comments flooded in to planners in response to the application at Achvraie in Achiltibuie.

Cash generated from the turbine’s 20-year life will be poured into the community with housing among the priorities.

Alison Sinclair, the Coigach Wind Power chairwoman, said it had a grid connection in place and was in negotiations with turbine manufacturers.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said Ms Sinclair, who insisted the objections from outwith the Highlands had not upset her. “Obviously the planning process is a opportunity for both supporters and objectors to make their points, both did so, eloquently. Everybody was entitled to their opinion.

“I think the planning process showed there was local support for the project. We have been talking about it for a long time, we have got a list of priorities for the community.”

Ms Sinclair, who attended the council’s north planning committee meeting in Inverness with a busload of Coigach residents, said pier restoration, affordable housing and new workshops would be among its priorities.

Planning official Dorothy Stott told councillors it was the best location for a turbine and would have no effect on the integrity of the National Scenic Area, with no statutory consultees against the scheme.

Opponents were concerned about the adverse impact on the landscape and tourism, the inappropriate industrial scale and its visibility from the sea, coast and hills.

Wester Ross councillors Audrey Sinclair and Biz Campbell paid tribute to the community’s efforts and enthusiasm and hoped the financial spin-offs would help the fragile community prosper.

Councillor Sinclair highlighted the peninsula’s falling population, which has declined by 11 per cent in the last decade.

Sutherland councillor Graham Phillips said he was not impressed with objections from countries like Germany and Spain and called for the issue to be reviewed by the local authority.

The Coigach turbine attracted 256 objections and 320 expressions of support, including a petition with 33 names.