Nineteen-kilometre track to wind farm accepted despite alternative option

A 14-turbine wind farm on moorland in the Scottish Highlands has been approved despite landscape concerns over a 19-kilometre access track up a steep hillside to the site and of encircling Loch Ness visually with turbines.

The council considered the proposed wind turbines would sit well in the landscape, seen in the context of existing wind farm developments, but was concerned with the landscape and visual impacts of a proposed 19 kilometre access track to the turbines, a concern supported by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and SEPA. Reference was made to very significant engineering works proposed on a steep hillside and the level of cut and fill required, which was likely to have an adverse impact on the landscape. A petition emphasised local concerns that the proposal would create a sense of encirclement of Loch Ness by turbines.

In the reporter’s opinion, the character of the area was already affected, to some degree, by existing tracks and wind farms, and although new sections of track would need to be formed and areas of moorland and heath displaced, the proposal sought to lessen the impact and included various measures which, in time, were likely to reduce its visual effect. She felt the proposal would contribute towards meeting renewable energy generation targets and would have a positive effect on the local and national economy and was in accordance overall with the development plan. In looking at the council’s suggested alternative of using the existing track to an adjoining wind farm, the reporter considered this option was unnecessary as she held the proposed access track was policy compliant. She also maintained it was acceptable that the suggested alternative route had been ruled out in the early stages of the environmental impact assessment for practical and commercial reasons and EIA regulations did not insist on all reasonable alternatives being considered in detail. 

Reporter: Claire Milne; Hearing

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