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Councillors stick to their guns and refuse to lift objection to Strath Oykel Wind Farm despite approach from Scottish Government

By Caroline McMorran

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North councillors have remained resolute in their decision to raise an objection to a planned Sutherland wind farm.

Members of the North Planning Applications Committee were asked by the Scottish Government to reconsider their decision, taken just five months ago, to oppose the proposed Strath Oykel Wind Farm.

The move by ministers was made in the light of a new planning policy, National Planning Framework 4, agreed by the Scottish Parliament and set to be adopted at the start of next month.

The proposed turbines at Strath Oykel Wind Farm would be amongst the highest in Scotland.
The proposed turbines at Strath Oykel Wind Farm would be amongst the highest in Scotland.

The policy presumes in favour of renewable energy developments and says that significant weight must be given to schemes that help mitigate the climate and biodiversity crisis.

The 11-turbine, 73mw Strath Oykel scheme, proposed by EnergieKontor UK, will be decided by Scottish Ministers, but was opposed by councillors on the grounds of its likely individual and cumulative impact on the landscape and visual amenity.

Planning officials had recommended that no objection be raised.

At 200m high, the proposed turbines would be higher than the Blackpool Tower and amongst the tallest in Scotland.

The development was bitterly opposed by residents in communities close to the site and also by wind farm campaign group No Ring of Steel (NORoS).

An objection by the local authority automatically triggers a public inquiry.

At today’s planning meeting, members expressed disappointment that they were being asked to reconsider the scheme when a decision on it had already been taken. They also expressed concerns over the impact of National Planning Framework 4.

Cllr Margaret Paterson, Dingwall and Seaforth, said: “A decision was taken by 14 councillors to raise an objection. I would have thought that is the end of the story. It is a bit of a boorach, here we go again and people in Strath Oykel are as puzzled as I am.

“They have chosen to live in Strath Oykel because it is beautiful as well as being quite and peaceful.

“Why should a developer come along and want to turn this area into an industrial area for their own benefit?

“I am not against wind farms but this is not the right place and I would ask the developers to withdraw the application and have some compassion for the people that live there. Our Scotland is being sold for developer’s gold.”

Cllr Ruraidh Stewart, Skye, said: “It would appear to me that in a polite way the Scottish Government are saying: ‘You gave the wrong answer before, why do you not try again?’”

Cllr Richard Gale, East Sutherland and Edderton, said: “This particular community has more than stepped up to the mark as far as existing wind farms are concerned. I am disappointed we have found ourselves in this situation and it is a sad day when we have to go over this again.”

Cllr Michael Baird, North, West and Central Sutherland, proposed a motion that the council maintain its objection to the wind farm.

The motion was backed by the committee with no amendment put forward.

No amendment was put forward with committee chairman Drew Miller, Skye, saiding: “I think it would be a futile exercise for me to move the recommendation.”

pointing out that a section in the new policy stated that proposals for major development should only be supported when it could be demonstrated the proposal would resore and enhance biofibrtdiyy

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