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Public inquiry begins into Loch Ness wind turbines

A four-day public inquiry begins today into a 13-turbine windfarm proposed for a hillside near Loch Ness.

Highland planners last year rejected Force 9 Energy’s Cnoc an Eas scheme proposed for Glen Urquhart citing the “significantly detrimental visual impact”.

The 448ft-tall turbines could be built five miles west of the iconic loch despite concerns registered by four community councils, hundreds of residents and a raft of government agencies.

The council received 287 objections to the scheme and 12 letters of support.

Among those raising objections were Historic Environment Scotland, the council’s historic environment team, the John Muir Trust, Mountaineering Scotland, The Scottish Wild Land Group, Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce and community councils representing Glen Urquhart, Kiltarlity, Strathglass and Kilmorack.

Andrew Smith, head of planning and development at Force 9 Energy, said: “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to explain in detail why we think this is an appropriate location for a wind farm.”

Cliff Green of opposition group Stop Turbines at Glenurquhart said: “If the appeal is successful, the windfarm would have a significant detrimental effect on the landscape and residential amenity. The cumulative visual impact would be disastrous for local tourism.”

Wildlife concerns have centred on rare species including golden eagle, osprey and the Slavonian Grebe.

Force 9 Energy and partners EDF Energy Renewables hope to build the windfarm above Loch Meikle, halfway between Drumnadrochit and Balnain.

They say it would be worth “up to £17.8million to the local economy” over its 25-year lifetime, creating construction jobs, “long-term jobs managing and maintaining the windfarm” plus a community windfall pledge of “up to” £220,000 a year.