The refusal of fewer but higher wind turbines at the site of a controversial wind farm planned near Tomatin has been welcomed by objectors.
Members of Highland Council’s south planning applications committee unanimously rejected the application by Nanclach Ltd on Tuesday, following a site visit the previous day, despite being recommended by their own planners to back the revised scheme.
There had been 161 objections to the new scheme, including submissions from community councils in Grantown, Strathdearn, Carrbridge and Dulnain Bridge, the RSPB and the John Muir Trust.
Nanclach won consent for 17 turbines of 110 metres in height at the location in July, 2013, and has a grid connection date earmarked for 2018. The revised scheme would have 13 turbines of 125 metres in height.
Anti-wind farm campaigner Pat Wells, who lives in Tomatin, said: “We welcome the unanimous decision by the South Planning Committee to refuse the revised ‘repowering’ planning application for Tom nan Clach wind farm on the Dava Moor hills between Strathdearn and Lochindorb.
“The original plan for 17 smaller turbines sited as a compact group is visually intrusive in the wild landscape of Dava Moor but the revised plan is much worse.
“The turbines are 15 metres higher with significantly larger blades which when rotating, will have a far greater visual impact.
The wind farm would fall within Highland Council’s designated Drynachan, Lochindorb and Dava Moor Special Landscape Area.
“If the application had been approved it would have seen councillors riding roughshod over the authority’s own designation and would have set a very unfortunate precedent.
“It was encouraging to hear councillors supporting the views of ordinary people for whom the Dava is a very special place rather than conceding to the possibility of their decision being overturned by an unelected government employee at appeal.
“It’s time Scotland came in line with England in refusing approval for wind farm developments where local communities object to their lives and landscapes being blighted by these industrial-scale power stations.”
Badenoch and Strathspey Highland councillor Bill Lobban proposed the refusal at the meeting in the council chambers in Inverness.
He told the Strathy afterwards: “I feel sure the public will appreciate the fact that members of Highland Council unanimously, yet again, rejected what must be seen as one of the worst ever examples of the wrong development in the wrong place.
“The Dava Moor, with Lochindorb Castle as its centrepiece, is a very special place, and deserves to be protected from inappropriate development.
“The original decision by the DPEA Reporter to overturn the previous unanimous refusal was quite simply unfathomable, and unquestionably wrong in every respect.
“Had this application been approved, it would have been immeasurably worse than the previous application.”
The John Muir Trust had expressed its concerns to planners about the overdevelopment along the Cairngorms National Park boundary, claiming it was leading to a very significant ‘ringing effect’.
Renewable energy company Infinergy – commenting on behalf of the partners forming Nanclach Limited – said it was bitterly disappointed by the decision, and was considering its options to appeal the decision.
Esbjorn Wilmar, managing director of Infinergy, said: “This redesign provides an opportunity to greatly increase the renewable electricity generated on the site.
“Compared to the initially consented scheme, the slightly larger turbine means a reduction in the number required and therefore a reduction in the infrastructure on site, but more importantly, increases the predicted energy produced by the wind farm by approximately 26%.
“This means that nearly 20,000 more homes could be supplied with renewable energy, as well as 15,000 more tonnes of CO2 being saved per year of operation, which is expected to be 25 years. It beggars belief that during the debate, councillors did not consider this point at all.
“They don’t seem to be interested in the slightest in the opportunity to generate more renewable energy from an already consented site. With the positive milestone of signing the Paris agreement, it is sometimes hard to see how we can deliver on the local level.”
The application to ‘repower’ with the 13 larger turbines was submitted to Highland Council in August last year.
There are 10 other wind farms either already in operation or approved in the vicinity, including Farr (12km from Tom nan Clach); Moy (5km); Glen Kyllachy (12km); Dunmaglass (25km); Berryburn (23km) and Paul’s Hill (25km).
Access to the site would be from a new junction on the B9007 via a road around 18 km in length, involving the construction of seven new watercourse crossings.
The wind farm site lies approximately eight kilometres north-east of Tomatin. Most of the site is part of Cawdor Estate, on an area of undulating moorland and blanket bog used mainly for grouse shooting.