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Battle of Loch Ness; Could 17 turbines tower over famous beauty spot?

Anti-windfarm campaigners are gearing up to fight plans for another batch of turbines near Loch Ness.

The 17 towers – each standing 415ft high – are being proposed by Force 9 Energy for hills close to the world-famous beauty spot.

The developer claims the devices, part of the Cnoc an Eas project near Balnain, will generate enough electricity to power 87,000 homes.

However, local residents have hit out at the “relentless” tide of windfarm applications in the area, close to the renowned Glen Affric nature reserve.

Several more developments are either approved or planned for the west side of Loch Ness, including SSE’s proposals for 32 turbines at Bhlaraidh, northwest of Invermoriston, which were passed at the start of this year. More than 1,200 people have also objected to the Glen Affric windfarm, which is planned on the slopes above Beinn Mhor near Tomich, just a few miles away.

Kate Morgan, a Cannich resident who has been involved in several protests, said: “I feel we are fighting one windfarm and then, whack, another one comes along. My worry is that if you put dots on the map of where they all are, you will end up with them joined up.

“It’s a beautiful area and it’s concerning what they are doing. Folk will see the turbines once and they will never come back.”

Steve Byford, chairman of Kilmorack community council, said: “It’s really upsetting and disappointing. If you put these turbines up it is just going to kill the area and affect livelihoods. It’s like the modern day Highland Clearances.”

Local anti-windfarm campaigner Lyndsey Ward said: “This is just relentless. It’s going to affect a lot of the same people who are fighting the Beinn Mhor plans just now. I have heard people say this won’t be finished in their lifetime. It’s really quite sad.

“We do our best to get the experts in and get people together that are prepared to help, but it’s becoming beyond the lay person to fight them because the process is so complex.”

Force 9 Energy has already completed a 29-turbine windfarm at Berryburn in Moray and one in Ayrshire. The firm also has plans for another five elsewhere in Scotland.

Bosses are now planning a series of public exhibitions about the proposals, which will be on land north of Loch Meiklie.

Andrew Smith, development manager at Force 9 Energy, said: “We have undertaken extensive initial assessment of the site and believe it is suitable for a windfarm. We will carry out further work and seek the views of the local communities and the various statutory consultees.

“As a responsible developer we are keen to have an active and meaningful dialogue with the community from the start. We urge people to come along to one of the public exhibitions and give us c o nstructive feedback.”

Mr Smith added that th e windfarm could bring economic benefits for local businesses and the wider community. The developer is working with EDF Energy Renewables which would build, own and operate the windfarm. The company will also be exploring the option of shared ownership with local communities. The public exhibitions will take place in Glenurquhart Public Hall on Monday, November 24, from 1pm-8pm and Kilmorack Community Hall on Tuesday, November 25, from 11am-6pm. Another two will be held in Kiltarlity Community Hall on Wednesday, November 26, from 10am-2pm and in Cannich Hall from 4pm to 8.30pm.