A showdown between objectors and developers will decide the fate of a massive Highland Perthshire windfarm.
The Scottish Government has called a public inquiry to investigate the 25-turbine Crossburns project after scathing criticism by Perth and Kinross Council.
The local authority, which lodged a formal objection against the plan one year ago, argued it would have an “unacceptable and adverse” impact on beauty spots Loch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge.
Now preparations are under way for an inquest, which will be held in Aberfeldy town hall in November.
Last week, government officials who will lead the inquiry joined council officers, projects leaders and residents at the proposed site to assess its potential impact on the surrounding landscape, including views of Schiehallion.
If approved, the 25 turbines, each up to 377ft high, will sit alongside the existing Calliacher wind farm.
The John Muir Trust, a charity set up to conserve wild areas, has opposed the plan and will be give evidence at the Aberfeldy inquiry.
Policy officer John Low said: “The site visit took in a number of important landscape viewpoints, including Glen Quaich and Rob Roy Way.
“Despite poor weather in the morning, it cleared up by the afternoon and allowed inquiry reporters to clearly see the potential impact on the surrounding landscape.
“The development is, to all intents and purposes, an extension of the existing Calliacher farm and on land previously deemed unsuitable for such development.”
He added: “The site visit was a potent reminder of what is at stake here. Highland Perthshire is already making a major contribution to renewable energy targets from existing capacity and we are concerned that we are now reaching tipping point.”
The Crossburn scheme was tabled by renewables firm West Coast Energy, which has since changed its name to Engie.
In documents lodged with appeal officials, developers have argued that the scheme will help meet Scotland’s renewable targets. Agents for the company have also stressed that the site is close to a road network capable of accommodating turbines of the scale proposed.
In the firm’s planning statement, a spokesman said: “There is unlikely to be any dispute that the introduction of a wind farm into an area will result in a degree of change to that landscape, albeit in this case there are already wind farms in different parts of Perth and Kinross and indeed two major wind farm developments in this part of the council area.
“Both these developments were consented after public inquiries. Whether the receptor views further change as positive or negative is a matter of subjective judgement for each person.
“However, the reality of the national policy advice is that it in no way presumes against the principle of wind energy development on the grounds that there will be change and that some people affected by that change will regard it as an unwelcome one.”
The inquiry is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, November 16.
Meanwhile, the John Muir Trust will put forward its case at public exhibitions in Birnam and Aberfeldy on September 26 and 27.
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