Plans for a wind farm between Reay and Melvich have been turned down by Highland Council.
The Drum Hollistan 2 development would have consisted of seven turbines on the Sandside Estate, with a total generating capacity of 35 megawatts. It was rejected because of the visual impact and because it would be detrimental to an area designated as wild land.
The application attracted 87 objections and 76 comments in support.
Wind farm campaigner Brenda Herrick welcomed the refusal but said she fully expected the developer, Drum Hollistan Renewables LLP, to lodge an appeal.
An earlier 17-turbine scheme was refused planning consent in June 2019 following a public local inquiry. It was dealt with by Scottish ministers under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989, as it was above 50 MW.
The seven turbines in the updated proposal would each have a generating capacity of up to 5MW and an overall blade tip height of 125m, located to the west of Reay.
Mrs Herrick, of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, said: “We always thought that the reason they came in with a much smaller one was that they would have stood more chance of getting that through.
“I’m quite sure they will appeal – I think it’s almost inevitable. And then if they did get it through next time they could add an extension.”
Some local residents have said they fear being surrounded by a “ring of steel” because of the number of turbines that have either been built or are proposed in the surrounding landscape.
Mrs Herrick said: “It’s all part of the ring of steel around Reay.
“The decision notice is fairly firm about all the things that are wrong with it. It’s interesting that the RSPB was very strongly opposed, and of course there’s also the tourism issue.”
Outlining its reasons for refusing the application, Highland Council said the development “would have a significantly detrimental visual impact particularly as viewed by travellers, including tourists and recreational users of the outdoors in the wider vicinity of the site but particularly to the north, east and west of the proposed development”.
It also said the application was contrary the Highland-wide Local Development Plan and Scottish Planning Policy 2014 as the impacts “would be detrimental to Wild Land Area 39 (East Halladale Flows) and are not able to be satisfactorily mitigated by siting or design”.
The developer has three months to appeal to the Scottish Government under Section 47 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.
Drum Hollistan Renewables LLP has been invited to comment.
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