WARY Highland councillors have grudgingly supported a new Easter Ross wind farm despite warnings about the potential cumulative impact on the area because the verdict on 34-turbines hangs in the balance.
Developer RockBySea got the green light on Tuesday to construct 13 turbines up to 99.5 metres high at Sidhean A’Choin Bain, in Strathrusdale.
It comes after Highland Council’s north planning applications committee objected in February to the Glenmorie wind farm proposal because of its potential impact on the landscape.
It attracted more than 300 objections and would be sited to the west of the location, at the Kildermorie and Glencalvie Estate.
The Scottish Government will make the final decision following a public inquiry but that is expected to be some time away.
The existing Beinn Tharsuinn wind farm is to the east of the site.
Committee members Graham Phillips, Maxine Smith and Mike Finlayson voiced fears about the cumulative impact on the area if RockBySea’s wind farm was backed and Glenmorie then received consent at a later date.
Eight objections were lodged against the application, including concern from Ardross Community Council about the cumulative impact but it said the development could probably be accommodated, if the Glenmorie scheme was rejected.
Creich and Ardgay and District community councils also cited cumulative impact concerns.
Councillor Phillips said the local authority should start lobbying the government and urged it to “get a wriggle on” so decisions on major schemes were made sooner, so the cumulative impact could be assessed.
“I have been wary of this one I have to say,” said Councillor Phillips (East Sutherland and Edderton). “I am minded to agree to this, just about.
“It is becoming more and more difficult for members of this committee to determine applications with certainty when other decisions are going to be taken by other people. We are not the only local authority to feel like this.”
Councillor Maxine Smith (Cromarty Firth) said she shared the cumulative impact fears.
“It is a bit of dichotomy because we are don’t know about Glenmorie,” she said. “I am little bit concerned about that and I can’t decide how to balance that in my mind.”
Her ward colleague, Councillor Finalyson, echoed the thoughts and warned Ardross and Strathrusdale would be hit, if Glenmorie got the go ahead.
“Could we have a possible deferral until Glenmorie is determined?,” he said.
“We are talking about the effect on peoples’’ lives.”
But Ken McCorquodale, the authority’s principal planner, said the committee was bound by the policies and could not defer until Glenmorie’s verdict was known.
Councillor Alex MacLeod (Landward Caithness) said the committee had to put Glenmorie out of its mind and decide it on its own merits.