RESIDENTS of one Ross-shire village breathed a sigh of relief this week after two major announcements lifted the threat of giant pylons and more turbines cutting through its landscape.
Ardross residents had campaigned for years against the proposed Glenmorie Wind Farm, which they feared would leave their community encircled by turbines, and in a separate development, the planned route of a replacement overhead power line through the community had also caused some disquiet.
However, a Court of Session judgment this week rejected Glenmorie Wind Farm Ltd’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the 34-turbine development.
Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission also revealed that it had put its plan for the Beauly to Loch Buidhe replacement electricity line on hold because it was not required at this time.
That announcement will have an impact on the wider Ross-shire community as the preferred option for the power line route would have cut through many communities, including Dingwall and Muir of Ord, as well as Ardross.
Ardross residents have welcomed both announcements, with one community leader expressing a hope that the wind farm company would now give up its plans for the Glenmorie development and not pursue another appeal.
Glenmorie Wind Farm Ltd had sought a judicial review of the Scottish ministers’ decision, made in August 2014, to refuse permission for the wind farm on the grounds that it would have a significant adverse environmental impact.
On Tuesday, Lady Wise published her decision not to allow the appeal, saying she could detect “no procedural unfairness, illegality, lack of reasoning or methodological error that might justify reducing the decision”.
John Edmondson of the Save our Straths campaign against the Glenmorie plan, said it was not quite the end of the road, as the company could appeal Lady Wise’s ruling, but it was finally getting very close to the end game.
He said: “Obviously we are delighted that Lady Wise has upheld this decision.
“We now hope the developer sees sense and does not take this to the court of appeal, giving the community more uncertainty for many more months. We hope that is the end of Glenmorie Wind Farm as it was proposed.”
In a separate move, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission released a statement earlier this week saying that due to the changes in the amount of generation seeking to connect to the transmission network, the proposed new double circuit 275kV line between Wester Balblair substation near Beauly and Loch Buidhe substation, near Bonar Bridge, is being postponed. Public consultation events planned to be held this year will not take place.
SHE Transmission’s project manager, Mark Baxter, said: “As the generation outlook has changed it is only right that we review our plans for reinforcing the network.
“We will continue to review the need and timing for a range of alternative reinforcement options and will continue to work with National Grid to identify the most economic proposals to advance.”
Speaking as secretary of Ardross Community Council, Mr Edmondson said the power line proposal had divided the community, and he believed the majority would be happy with the status quo.
He said: “I think many are pleased this has been shelved.”
Dingwall Community Council treasurer David Lockett, who had previously expressed grave concerns about the huge visual impact the overhead power line would have on several towns and villages throughout Mid Ross, also welcomed the news.
Mr Lockett had warned the tower line would be very prominent as it would have overlooked centres of population and its construction would have caused major disruption with miles of temporary roadways.
He said yesterday: “I’m really relieved for the local villages and towns, because the line would have had an impact on so many communities, including Muir of Ord, Beauly and Dingwall.
“Because they had opted for the central line, it would have had a hugely disruptive influence, firstly while it was being built, and also due to the visual impact, which is why the community council was keeping an eye on it.”
Mr Lockett, who had a personal interest as the power line would have crossed his Dingwall farm, added: “We always needed to be convinced that they really needed such a massive engineering project. I don’t think local people understood the true scale of such a massive undertaking.”