The Scottish Government reporter has overturned Highland Council’s refusal of a planning application for a wind farm, despite widespread local opposition.
The north planning committee also learned on Tuesday that operators Energiekontor have already said they want to increase the height of the wind turbine tips.
Chairwoman Maxine Morley-Smith branded the developers “sneaky” and “greedy”, warning that locals will be very unhappy with the Scottish Government decision.
Strathrory wind farm in Ardross, Alness, was rejected by councillors last June.
Proposals for the seven-turbine wind farm attracted more than 50 objections from the local community.
The main issue under debate was the visual impact of the development on the area, which already has five wind farms.
In a motion tabled by Ms Morley-Smith, the council argued that the development would have a significant detrimental visual impact, contrary to Policy 67 of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan. The motion won by nine votes to three.
However, the Scottish Government has upheld an appeal from Energiekontor, and granted planning permission.
In a letter to the council on January 9, 2022, reporter Keith Bray wrote: “At the heart of this appeal is a difference of opinion on the acceptability of the landscape and visual impacts.”
Mr Bray says he made a site visit and believes the “simple but large scale” landscape would not be overwhelmed by large wind turbines. He concluded that the landscape is “influenced” but not “dominated” by wind farms.
Now, council planners say Energiekontor has already made plans to vary its application.
Last week, the operator served notice that it will apply for a modification to allow larger blade tip heights. They say this change is due to lower than expected wind speeds on site.
“The developers are already coming back and asking for more,” said Ms Morley-Smith.
“It’s pure greedy. It’s very sad to see a development going down this route, which people will find sneaky. I don’t like it.”
Caithness councillor Donnie Mackay shared his view.
“Now you understand what I’ve been shouting about for a long time,” he said, referring to wind farm applications in Caithness.
“They get round it in a different way and I don’t think it’s right.”
SNP councillor Raymond Bremner said the committee listened to community voices and made a “robust” argument to the Scottish Government.
The reporter, however, applied the letter of the law.
“This is beyond politics,” he added.
Ms Morley-Smith concluded: “What’s the point of having a local planning committee at all? We may as well just ask the Scottish Government.”
By local democracy reporter Nicola Sinclair