Campaigners were celebrating last night after the controversial Brown Muir windfarm plans were rejected by councillors.
But SNP members of the local authority were facing a backlash from protesters amid accusations they put their party before the people by voting to back the scheme.
The 12-turbine project tabled by Vento Ludens for a site between Elgin and Rothes attracted more than 1,300 objections. By contrast, Moray Council received just 20 submissions supporting the proposed development.
The local authority’s planning and regulatory services committee blocked the application yesterday on the casting vote of chairman Chris Tuke.
But anti-windfarm campaigners such as Inchberry resident Bob Graham claimed Pearl Paul and the other five Nationalist councillors on the committee voted as a block to support the scheme.
Council officers had recommended the project be rejected, primarily on the grounds of visual impact on the landscape.
Speyside Glenlivet SNP councillor Ms Paul disagreed with planning officials about the impact the proposal would have on the environment and moved approval of the application.
Her Nationalist colleague and fellow ward member Mike McConachie seconded the motion.
Councillor Paul said: “When Brown Muir became a landmark hill, I don’t know.
“There’s very few people in the area know it is called ‘Brown Muir hill’.
“It was just a bump in the landscape and it suddenly became a landmark hill when it was decided to put windfarms on it,” added Councillor Paul.
Forres Independent councillor George Alexander told the committee that “there needs to be a time when we have to protect some of the areas in Moray”.
He added: “Maybe Brown Muir is a step too far.”
The council’s Conservative convener, Heldon and Laich member Allan Wright, tabled an amendment to refuse planning permission, which was seconded by his fellow ward member and Independent Councillor Tuke.
The vote was tied at 6-6 in the absence of 13th committee member Douglas Ross, and Mr Tuke used his casting vote as chairman to accept the officers’ recommendation and reject the application.
SNP councillors Margo Howe, George McDonald, Aaron McLean and Sonya Warren voted in support of Mrs Paul and Mr McConachie’s motion to approve.
Mr Alexander, fellow Independents John Cowe and Gordon Cowie, and Labour member John Divers voted in support of Councillor Wright and Mr Tuke’s amendment to refuse.
But after the meeting, a furious Bob Graham criticised the Nationalist councillors. He said: “I have been fighting windfarms for 20 years, and I am so disappointed the SNP arrived here with the intention of block-voting to support the SNP government’s policy on renewable energy, despite 1,300 local people objecting.
“We have trashed most of Moray onshore – visual impact is a done deal. Now they are going to put 300-plus turbines in the Moray Firth to trash our seascapes as well.
“How these SNP philistines could have no regard for the beauty of this country and its landscape is an absolute tragedy.”
And long-term Brown Muir opponent Derek Ross said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that the SNP care nothing for public opinion.
“We are very relieved that the other councillors recognised the feeling of the people of Moray, but it is criminal what the SNP have done.
But Mrs Paul dismissed the claims as “nonsense”.
She said: “Every councillor presses a button, and as far as we are concerned we never, ever have had any whip on planning.
“It is entirely up to the individuals. We made our decision on what we thought ourselves.
“If we did vote the same, we just happened to do it. It’s as simple as that.
“There was nothing prearranged, but if you put it that way, then the other six voted in block as well,” added Councillor Paul.
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