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Strathrory wind farm bid near Ardross is rejected as Ross-shire councillors overturn recommendation of officials

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillor Maxine Smith acknowledged the strength of local feeling.
Councillor Maxine Smith acknowledged the strength of local feeling.

Dozens of objections by locals and a community council have seen a proposed £44 million wind farm at Ardross rejected by Highland Council, overturning the recommendation of officials.

The north planning applications committee was swayed by more than 50 objections to the proposed Strathrory Wind Farm by German firm EnergieKontor UK Ltd.

The plan was to build seven turbines with a blade tip height of almost 150 metres that would operate for a period of 35 years. Alongside that there would have been access tracks, borrow pits, a substation and control building as well as further ancillary infrastructure.

EnergieKontor calculated that just 12 per cent of the £44 million budget would be invested in the the Highlands and create between 35 and 54 jobs during construction. The annual operational and maintenance costs equate to about £30 million over its operational life, which would "typically be spent locally".

Amendments made during the application process saw the number of turbines cut by one and a blade tip height reduced from 180 metres to just under 150 metres.

But Ardross Community Council remained concerned, citing the fact that consultations took place during the Covid crisis, concerns the landscape and visual impacts and the impacts on the local economy and recreational routes.

The community council also feared damaging environmental changes including the adverse lighting impact on dark skies and bats; habitat, ecology and ornithology; construction traffic impacting on cultural heritage assets (war memorial).

Their statement read: “The scale of the proposed turbines is also of particular concern, with the design of the wind farm not demonstrating sensitive sitting in the opinion of the Community Council.

“It considers that the reduction in scale of the proposal through the Environmental Impact Assessment and Further Environmental Impact II has also not made any material difference and some of the amended turbine position have made the scheme worse.

“It also considers that the landscape and visual impacts have been underplayed, with overreliance placed upon surrounding commercial forestry for screening, much of which is due to be felled within the operational lifetime of the wind farm.”

But the chairwoman of the committee and local Councillor Maxine Smith proposed refusing the application based on the significant visual impact and local feeling.

She said there were scores of wind turbines near Ardross already.

And she said a lot of dwellings would be impacted by visibility.

She acknowledged the proximity to local housing, the cumulative impact, the effect on the dark skies, all of which Ardross Community Council had objected to.

She said: “And over the weekend I received about 25 emails objecting to this with different reasons and some of the people will be living near this. So for all of these reasons but mostly on the impact on the local community in Ardross, I am going to put forward a motion to refuse this application.”

Councillor Derek Macleod said local voices needed to be heard.
Councillor Derek Macleod said local voices needed to be heard.

Cllr Derek Macleod said: “I cannot get beyond that Ardross Community Council have objected and 53 representations in a small community have also objected.You have taken the views of what people will see in the passing but you have to take the views of the people who actually live there, who are seeing turbines around there day to day.

“So I think there has to be a greater emphasis on local feeling in matters such as this, and as others have said there is plenty of onshore wind generation to make up for the absence of this one.”

John Edmonson, secretary of Ardross Community Council, said later: “We are obviously delighted that members listened to the community.

“I have not heard anyone in Ardross supportive of this application which is too close, and too high when the other five wind farms and 82 turbines are taken into account.”

Discussion during the meeting heard irritation expressed by some that Highland Council officials responsible for making recommendations were not taking the views of locals into account sufficiently in some cases.

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