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Windfarm dilemma for Highland councillors

Councillors are being directed to approve a major electricity substation at a tranquil Highland beauty spot to accommodate a windfarm that is currently the subject of a legal challenge.

The 67-turbine Stronelairg scheme would be the biggest in the Monadhliath mountains.

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission’s (Shet) proposal for a substation west of Laggan has been branded “barbaric” by local mountaineer Cameron McNeish.

He blames “windfarm objection fatigue” for a lack of public opposition to the document that will go before members of the council’s south area planning committee next week.

Highland Council received just two objections, including one which was lodged late.

Mr McNeish said: “I know what it’s like. I get to the stage myself where I just want to throw the sheets over my head, saying ‘God, not another windfarm’.”

The author and broadcaster added: “It’s one of the sad repercussions of the Beauly-Denny pylon line.

“Stronelairg is subject to legal action and I’m hoping it won’t happen. If the windfarm doesn’t happen we won’t need the substation.”

Shet, which has applied to build a substation spanning 27 acres, is legally obliged to provide developers with connections to the national grid.

It is the transmission arm of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) – which is the Stronelairg Windfarm applicant.

Wild land charity the John Muir Trust sought a judicial review last year of the decision by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing to approve the windfarm without a public inquiry.

The turbines were opposed by the government’s own advisors Scottish Natural Heritage, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and most local councillors.

SSE’s website suggests the scheme is on track and will take “around 36 months” to construct.

It adds: “Over the coming months we will be working to address the conditions associated with the consent ahead of the construction phase.

“In the meantime, we will continue to keep the local community and local stakeholders updated on the project as it progresses.

The trust received donations from more than 1,000 people last year to help fund its legal challenge against Stronelairg’s approval.