Plans for a windfarm close to Ben Wyvis have been withdrawn, to the joy of protestors who had vowed to “fight to the bitter end” to prevent it.
Developers ABO Wind UK backed down on the controversial proposal to build five masts near Dingwall after Highland Council planners warned they would recommend refusal of the scheme.
The move was greeted with relief by campaigners, who said Ben Wyvis was so iconic that the land around it should remain a “no go area” for companies in future.
However, the news broke as fresh proposals emerged for another windfarm south of Inverness.
And last night ABO Wind UK said it would “consider its position” over the withdrawn project – hinting it might return with another application for the site.
Anti-windfarm campaigner Lyndsey Ward, from Kiltarlity, said protestors were prepared for the developer to try again, but warned: “They really are on a hiding to nothing as far as Ben Wyvis is concerned.
“This application should never have been put forward in the first place and they should just withdraw gracefully now,” she added.
“It’s such an iconic mountain and there are so many people against it who will fight to the bitter end that developers should realise it is just a no go area.”
ABO Wind UK had been seeking approval for five masts behind Cnoc a’ Bhreacaich hill, next to the massif, at Woodlands Farm, near Dingwall.
The proposed height of two of the towers was lowered to 361ft to make them less prominent. The other three would have been 410ft tall.
Ferintosh Community Council also objected to the proposal. Its chairman, Bruce Morrison, said residents would be delighted to hear it had been withdrawn.
He said: “We would just ask developers to take note that this is a unique landscape and that residents clearly don’t believe that it should be degraded with windfarms in front of it.”
Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) chief officer, David Gibson, previously described the visual intrusion as “completely unacceptable”.
He said yesterday: “Developers should take note that any future proposals which encroach on Ben Wyvis and its surround will be fought by the MCofS and by other organisations and many individuals throughout Scotland and beyond, who believe in the importance of protecting what is now left of Scotland’s fantastic mountain landscapes.”
He added that MCofS was supportive of the Scottish Government’s policy to generate electricity from renewable sources but said: “This was another example of a windfarm proposal in the wrong place.”
Scottish Natural Heritage local operations manager, Steve North, said: “We’re pleased to hear that the proposal to build a windfarm at Woodlands near Dingwall has been withdrawn.
“We had advised the applicants and the planning authority that the proposal would have significant and unavoidable impacts on the landscape.
“It would have detracted from the impressive views of Ben Wyvis from the south and east – views which are a major feature of the area and form a backdrop to the lives and travel of many residents and visitors.”
ABO Wind’s project manager, Clark Crosbie, said the Woodlands Windfarm application had been withdrawn because feedback from Highland Council and statutory consultees “indicated a number of technical and other issues that could impact on the commercial viability of the site”.
He said: “We will consider our position once we have fully reassessed the technical and commercial dynamics of the site.”
Mr Crosbie added that the company was pleased it had agreed a local infrastructure fund that would offset any impact of the construction period on local neighbours.
And he said: “Any future scheme we bring forward will honour in full the agreements we have signed between ABO Wind, the community councils and the local neighbours.”
The letter from Highland Council’s principal planner David Baldwin that prompted the withdrawal of the application warned the developer that if it did not do so in writing by Tuesday of this week, officers would recommend refusal.
Mr Baldwin wrote: “The relationship of the proposed windfarm with Ben Wyvis and the Cromarty Firth is likely to result in unacceptable visual impacts in the surrounding area and from key travel routes.
“The development would also impact adversely on the landscape qualities of the Ben Wyvis massif.”
He also pointed out that it did not comply with local or national planning policy.
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