Conservation bodies have welcomed Highland Council’s decision to refuse permission to build a controversial 14-turbine wind farm on the southern slope of Ben Wyvis.
The decision was taken by planning officials under delegated powers, with the approval of all four local ward councillors.
The planners set out three reasons for their decision at Carn Gorm near Garve, including the fact that the development “would be detrimental to Wild Land Area 29 – Rhiddoroch-Beinn Dearg-Ben Wyvis”.
The John Muir Trust head of policy, Helen McDade, said: “This is a victory for wild land and for common sense.
“The trust vigorously objected to the development.
“We are delighted that the Highland Council has taken this decision.
“We are especially heartened at the council’s recognition that this development would potentially undermine one of the recently mapped Wild Land Areas, as recognised in Scottish Planning Policy 2014.”
And, she added: “This decision should send a clear message to developers to steer clear of the 42 Wild Land Areas mapped earlier this year by Scottish Natural Heritage and supported by the John Muir Trust.
“The trust is committed to the Scottish Government’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. But we do not believe the construction of industrial-scale wind energy developments on or around wild land is necessary to achieve these targets.”
Support for the decision also came from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS), tourism business and community groups.
MCoS chief officer David Gibson said: “I believe in the past we have described Ben Wyvis as a mountain under siege and it is our hope that the council rejecting Carn Gorm will send a message to other developers to keep away.
“For many visitors to the Highlands the mountain is the first major view you get of the area when you come over Slochd Summit on the A9 and it is important that view is sustained.
“We can only call so many mountains iconic but Ben Wyvis is important and is genuinely iconic and it deserves protection.”
The council’s decision also took into account the cumulative impact of existing wind farms, and the effect on both tourism, and on the quality of life for local residents of a development which would have been visible from major routes, including the A832 and the iconic Dingwall to Kyle railway line.
A spokeswoman for Highland Council explained that applications can be determined by officials under delegated powers, without going to the planning committee, if the planners are recommending refusal and all local ward councillors agree with that finding. If one of the local members disagrees, or if the planners want to approve an application, it must go before the committee.
Applications for larger wind farms go straight to the Scottish Government.
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