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Decade-long battle could be at an end after Mull Hill turbines plan rejected again

A 10-year battle could be at an end after the Scottish Government rejected controversial plans that would have seen nine giant wind turbines erected near Crieff.

The decision leaves the Mull Hill bid in disarray and while green energy developer Force 9 Energy considers its next step, opponents hope they have heard the last of the project.

Their fight began in autumn 2003 when plans for a giant windfarm – to be known as Abercairney – were unveiled and subsequently refused at all levels.

Force 9 Energy then returned with revised plans for smaller clusters of 100-metre turbines, including its nine-turbine Mull Hill scheme.

Once again it was rebuffed but, as the wider Crieff community held its breath, the firm made an 11th hour appeal to Scottish ministers.

It claimed the council had failed to consider properly the potential benefits of the scheme, which it said included £22.5 million of investment for Strathearn and as much as £1.9m for a community fund.

The company asked for the council’s decision to be set aside but yesterday came the news that campaigners had been waiting for as the Scottish Government threw out the appeal.

A planning reporter noted that the need for renewable energy was not be rejected lightly and acknowledged that the windfarm had been “carefully designed”.

Nonetheless, the reporter concluded that its adverse impact upon the surrounding area would outweigh any benefits, while the site’s proximity to major tourist routes made it “inappropriate”.

The decision added : “The location of the proposal and its intrusion into an area devoid of commercial-scale windfarm developments makes it inappropriate.”

News of the refusal was welcomed by opponents, including the Sma’ Glen Protection Group, which has long campaigned against windfarm plans for the area.

“We local objectors feel absolutely vindicated in our long-standing opposition to this proposal,” the group’s Maureen Beaumont told The Courier.

“As the reporter pointed out, it would have been very close to an important tourist route and would have dominated the approach to the very special Sma’ Glen.

“We very much hope that this second refusal will be the last episode in this saga and that the developer will accept the reporter’s decision as final.”

The decision was also welcomed by Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith, who said “good sense” had prevailed.

“It was clear from the outset that the vast majority of local people were against the Mull Hill windfarm,” she said.

“It was always going to have a detrimental impact on such a scenic area.”