Plans for a 22-turbine wind farm on peatland near Altnaharra were approved by Highland councillors today.
The Creag Riabhach proposal will be built on more than 879 acres on the west side of the A836.
As many as 13 other wind farm projects, approved or in the pipeline, lie within 21 miles of the proposed site. And there are 34 scheduled monuments and five listed buildings within the surrounding landscape.
However, the council received 84 letters of support for the application.
Now it will be down to the Scottish Government to decide whether to grant final approval. The council is only a statutory consultee but councillors on the north area planning applications committee gave the scheme the thumbs-up at their meeting in Inverness this morning.
North West Sutherland councillor Hugh Morrison said jobs would be created through the construction of the scheme. He said: “The project has the backing of the local community. It would be remiss of us to deny them this opportunity.”
More than 60 letters of objection, however, were also received by the council.
The turbines will stand 410 feet tall and the development will include two wind monitoring turbine masts, a substation, access tracks, a new access point with the A836 and a new bridge over the River Vagastie.
Grid connection is expected to be formed by a 132kV overhead line from a proposed substation sited southwards nearer Lairg.
The turbine parts will arrive from Invergordon to Lairg, via the Mound, then across the A836 Lairg to Tongue road, which will be upgraded in parts to accommodate the transports.
The council’s principal planner Ken McCorquodale said the A836 would not be used across its whole length. A diversion through the Forestry Commission’s Dalchork Forest holdings would be used by abnormal loads and HGV deliveries.
However, a small part of the development would impact on a recent commercial plantation, one of several blocks of woodland adjacent to the roadside south of Altnaharra. And immediately west and south of the site is the protected peatland site at Cnoc an Alaskie, while the Ben Klibreck SSSI lies to the immediate east.
Other designations, ranging from local to international levels of protection, lie within the wider area. Peat is present across the whole site and the area is inhabited by protected species including otters, eagles, hen harriers, merlins, golden plovers, divers and geese.
Mr McCorquodale said the majority of the site is on the council map which outlines areas of greatest opportunity for wind farm developers. He says local roads will be improved and peatlands restored through habitat management.
He said environmental agency SEPA was content over the carbon payback calculations made for the project.
Objections were raised by Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Wildlife Trust, John Muir Trust and the Scottish Council for Mountaineering. They related to landscape impact and there are concerns about the council’s Special Landscape Area, areas specially designated as wild land, and Ben Klibreck.