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Public hearing into Tory MSP’s wind farm planned

A public hearing is to take place over a refused controversial windfarm in Argyll which could earn the Scottish Conservatives’ environment spokesman more than £8 million.

The application was refused when it came before planners in May.

Ardchonnel wind farm is planned on a 3500-acre estate in Argyll owned by Conservative MSP Sir Jamie McGrigor.

It had attracted 92 objections – and 52 expressions of support.

The 45 megawatt windfarm would have been one of the largest in Argyll had it been allowed.

However, councillors on Argyll and Bute Council’s planning committee unanimously refused to grant the project permission, in line with recommendations from its officials. Because of the strength of representations – both for and against – it was decided to hold a council public hearing in the local area.

Following the decision developers RWE Innogy lodged an appeal and a Scottish Government public hearing will now take place between March 3 and 4, with a site visit on January 15. It will be chaired by government reporter Dan Jackman.

The Ardchonnel project would have seen 15 turbines, each 364ft tall – the same height as seven double-decker buses – erected on the hills above Loch Awe, generating enough electricity to power 40% of the homes in Argyll and Bute.

The proposal proved unpopular among many of Sir Jamie’s constituents, dozens of whom lodged formal objections claiming it would ruin the skyline and wreck the local tourist trade.

Sir Jamie, 64, an Eton-educated baronet who has been a Highland and Islands Tory list MSP since 1999, struck a deal with German energy giant RWE to develop Ardchonnel in 2011.

Sir Jamie argues the windfarm would bring jobs.

“I just hope that the schene will be dealt with fairly on its merits,” he has said. The MSP has no comment on the appeal.

In 2008, Sir Jamie signed a parliamentary motion demanding rules on windfarms to end “speculative applications … threatening scenic areas”.

In one objection, Irene McClounnan, secretary of Dalavich Social Club, said Ardchonnel would “rip the heart out of this community potentially creating a ghost village”.

But some locals lodged letters of support, including Sir Jamie’s brother Sir Charlie McGrigor, and his mother, Lady Mary McGrigor.

RWE said the proposal would bring more than £20m to Argyll and Bute Council over its life span through business rates.