Mountaineers and conservationists have made a last ditch plea to Highland councillors to object to plans for a new windfarm in an area of wilderness.
Members of the north planning committee will today visit the proposed site of the Creag Riabhach development at Altnaharra before debating the scheme tomorrow.
The plans include 22 turbines on the Altnaharra Estate, 12 miles north of Lairg, as well as access tracks and other equipment.
Four of the 410ft devices would sit in an area of recognised wild land, while the others would be next to the boundaries of another.
The site is also less than three miles from the popular Munro, Ben Klibreck.
A special company – Creag Riabhach Windfarm Ltd – has been set up by the estate and a local firm to pursue the project, which has divided local opinion.
The Highland Council received 63 objections and 84 letters of support, while the Scottish Government, which will take the final decision, received 209 objections and six notices of support.
Four local community councils are supportive and the council’s own planning officers recommend the scheme for approval.
But the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) and the John Muir Trust are now urging the local authority to raise its own objection to trigger a public local inquiry.
Helen McDade, the trust’s head of policy, said: “The north planning applications committee has a good record on making the correct decision against wind developments despite their planning officers’ recommendation.
“In the recent past, the committee has objected to four such applications – Dunbeath, Glenmorie, Beinn Mhor and Limekiln – and all four schemes were later refused by the Scottish Government, which suggests that the councillors were right and the officials wrong.”
David Gibson, chief officer of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said he was concerned that principal planner Ken McCorquodale would give a verbal update to councillors on relevant policy issues rather than a written one.
He added: “By objecting to the Creag Riabhach application, the council will automatically trigger a public local inquiry, thus ensuring that the application is subject to more rigorous scrutiny.”
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