Campaigners against a controversial wind farm at the gateway to Glen Affric are furious that the decision has been taken out of local hands.
Renewable energy firm WPD has appealed to the government arguing Highland Council failed to make a decision on the six turbine development, near the conservation village of Tomich, within the statutory timescale of four months.
Under the appeals process, the local authority is now only permitted to express a view and Scottish ministers will decide the application’s fate.
Councillors were twice unable to carry out a site visit due to bad weather and on Tuesday could therefore not vote on the project planned for Beinn Mhor, on the Guisachan estate.
They will however, go ahead with a visit and have a debate next month. but this will only be submitted to the government reporter when he carries out his investigation into the developer’s appeal.
Council officials have recommended the scheme go ahead despite more than 1000 objections.
Ian Campbell, a member of anti-wind farm group Glen Affric Friends Say No! said he was “absolutely disappointed” at the lack of local determination.
He also pointed out the application was delayed going to councillors last year because the local authority had to make a number of requests for more information on WPD’s plans.
“We are now looking at what options we have under the appeals process,” said Mr Campbell who lives in Cannich.
Inverness Central councillor Donnie Kerr told the south area planning applications committee on Tuesday he recognised the company had to lodge the appeal by a cut-off point but believed it was to ensure it did not lose out on a government subsidy.
“But it does concern me that what we have here is almost a Sword of Damocles situation,” he added.
“We, as councillors, are being asked to go on a site visit and decide something knowing that an appeal is lodged and will proceed if we refuse the scheme.
“It’s more or less putting a bit of undue influence on it, the way it’s being done here.”
At the meeting council planning manager Allan Todd said the government reporter will either hold a public inquiry or rely on written evidence before deciding whether to approve or reject the project.
Simon Hindson, planning officer, added: “Today was the last day for the applicants to have appealed against non-determination.”
He clarified the scheme was supposed to have been decided by 24th November.
“Given that we were looking to bring it to committee at a date beyond that we did seek to extend that date but the applicant wasn’t willing to enter that process,” he explained.
Aird and Loch Ness councillor Margaret Davidson said: “We all want to get a decision on this and we’ve been lined up twice for site visits but we can’t regulate for the weather.”
Members agreed to have a site visit on 19th March.
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