A Scottish Government reporter approved the Dell Wind Farm plan after it was refused by Highland councillors.
The proposed 14-turbine wind farm at Whitebridge, which attracted 103 objections and a 150-name petition, was rejected two years ago by councillors.
The main objections related to the landscape and visual impact of the proposed access track while other concerns included the cumulative impact of more wind turbines, loss of trees, peat disturbance and the effect on tourism and recreation.
But an appeal against the decision by developer Dell Wind Farm, part of Coriolis Energy, has now been upheld by Scottish Government reporter Claire Milne after considering the arguments and visiting the 577-hectare site to the east of Loch Ness.
“Overall, I consider there to be a presumption in favour of the development,” said Ms Milne, who added the project would contribute to the government’s renewable energy targets and generate short-term employment during construction.
“Drawing all the relevant considerations together, I am satisfied that any adverse impacts of the proposal would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh its benefits.”
She acknowledged there would be “some adverse but acceptable” impacts including the loss of trees, habitats and areas of peatlands, plus some visual effects at higher points.
The council, which refused the application on the recommendation of planning officers, felt the turbines would sit well in the landscape, in combination with Stronelairg Wind Farm but were particularly concerned about the visual impact of the proposed access track leading through Glen Brein.
Although the developers felt this had been overstated, they accepted the need for further site investigations to mitigate the visual impact and suggested the council’s engineer could be more directly involved.
Ms Milne noted the main visual impact would be from the summit of Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh and the track would be seen by walkers along the Great Glen Way.
But she felt mitigation measures such as native woodland and weathering of the proposed crushed stone surface would lessen the impact.
“Based on my own observations and the various submissions made, I am satisfied that the visual impact of the proposed track would be acceptable subject to the proposed mitigation measures,” she said.
The proposed turbines, located on the western edge of the Monadhliath Mountains, will be up to 130m high at their tip and will have an expected overall capacity of around 42MW.
Anti-wind farm campaigner Pat Wells, of Strathdearn, was disappointed with the reporter’s decision.
“It is another example of an unelected government-appointed person overturning the decision of democratically- elected councillors,” she said.
“Why do we bother? If it suits the government, they overrule it every time.
“Everywhere you look is a wind turbine landscape with tracks and pylons and increased power lines.”
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