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Third windfarm granted permission for north-west Skye despite ‘significant adverse impact’ on landscape

A third windfarm in a small area of north-west Skye has been given the nod by Highland councillors, despite planners’ admission of a ‘significant adverse impact’ on the surroundings.

Ben Sca wind farm will lie little more than a mile north of Edinbane, between 18 turbine Edinbane wind farm and 12 turbine Ben Aketil.

Ben Sca’s seven turbines will tower more than 100ft above those of its neighbours, at almost 450ft.

There have been no objections to the proposal by statutory consultees, leaving a handful of residents in Upper Edinbane to voice their concerns.

They say the turbines will ‘fill their windows’ and they fear the cumulative effect of the three windfarms, with applications already in to increase the size of Ben Aketil, and the recently approved 11 turbine Glen Ullinish to come, less than four miles away.

Anne Anderson runs Ronan guest house and will have a view of all three wind farms from her living room and two bedroom windows.

She said: “Ben Sca wind turbines appear much bigger and will completely ruin the view over the landscape.

“We understand noise will come from them, unlike the existing ones.

“Edinbane is now just starting to blossom, we’ve got two lovely restaurants in the village, Edinbane Inn and the award-winning Lodge where people come just to go there, and then you get all those ugly windmills.

“I’m not against wind farms, but I’m sure they could have found somewhere else.

“We’ve got our fair share here.”

Upper Edinbane resident retired government lawyer James Maclean said as an ‘incomer of 15 years’ he felt uneasy about expressing an opinion, but he sought consistency in planning policy.

“The height of the Edinbane turbines, 330ft, caused huge controversy at that time, and now without much difficulty seven much bigger turbines have been agreed.

“I fear that once developers get a foothold in an area like this it can snowball and nobody says no.”

The neighbours also lodged their concerns about the noise, visual strobing, impact on tourism, and impact on bird life.

Wind2 originally proposed nine turbines, including three more elevated than the rest, but tweaked their plans to seven after council planners asked them to remove the three highest ones.

The company has offered those closest to the wind farm the opportunity to reduce their energy bills, either through a contribution to their electricity bill of around £400 or towards home energy efficiency improvements, as part of an annual £5,000 per MW community benefit package.

Wind2 says it is also exploring opportunities for the communities around the site to acquire a stake of up to 5% in the project.

Development director Fraser Mackenzie emphasised Ben Sca will be subsidy-free.

He said: “We know from on-site wind monitoring that Ben Sca is one of the windiest locations in the Highlands and the project will be able to operate without subsidy, whilst also reducing the electricity bills of those in the immediate area and delivering other projects of benefit to the community through our proposed community benefit fund.”

Planner Alison Harvey told councillors at Tuesday’s north planning meeting that allowing a concentration of wind farms in the Edinbane area, which has no protecting designations, avoids impact on designated national scenic areas such as Trotternish ridge and the Cuillins.

She said: “Whilst the cumulative impact is challenging, it is considered that by concentrating the turbines in an area which we consider to have the landscape capacity to absorb the development it takes pressure and impact away from more sensitive areas such as the Cuillins and Trotternish ridge, which Skye is famous for.”

The wind farm will have the capacity to generate 29.4MW, around 108,000 MW hours of electricity annually, sufficient to meet the needs of around 28,500 UK homes.

It will connect to the grid near Dunvegan, but this depends on significant upgrades required to the grid between Dunvegan and Fort Augustus, prompting developers Wind2 to ask for a five year permission window for their application.