Councillors have given the green light to two wind farms in Lairg, despite local controversy.
Sallachy wind farm divided community opinion, with 123 objections and 144 comments in support.
The nine-turbine development on the shores of Loch Shin won the support of several local community councils, including Ardgay, Durness, Lairg and Scourie.
However, Rogart Community Council voiced concerns about the high volume of traffic that would run through the village.
The wind farm will sit within the Sallachy Estate in Lairg, which is home to 6,000 hectares of woodland. It’s part of the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands special protection area and home to many sensitive habitats including blanket bog.
As such, NatureScot objected to the wind farm. So too did the Kyle of Sutherland salmon fishery board, who said that a proposed bridge expansion at the site threatened their annual restoration programme.
Despite the sensitive ecology of the area, local members said the community is mostly supportive. They feel the wind farm will deliver economic benefits for the area and they welcome the development’s contribution towards net zero.
Highland Council planners recommended the wind farm application for approval. They had also agreed a 2015 application on this site, which was ultimately rejected by the Scottish Government.
Local councillors Hugh Morrison and Richard Gale both spoke in support of Sallachy wind farm.
“I’m pleased with the way the developers worked with the council on this,” said Mr Gale.
“It’s widely supported in the community generally and it’s worthy of support.”
Members of the north planning committee unanimously approved planning permission for Sallachy wind farm.
‘It is a paradox’
Earlier in the morning, councillors also granted permission to a neighbouring wind farm in Dalmichie. Strath Tirry wind farm includes just four turbines with a maximum height of 135 metres.
Highland Council planners had recommended the application for refusal, saying it would have a detrimental impact on the landscape.
Local members took issue with this stance.
Hugh Morrison asked why a development that’s supported by the local community council and NatureScot would be recommended for refusal, while larger nearby wind farms are supported.
Committee chairwoman Maxine Morley-Smith acknowledged the “paradox” of the application: while wind farms are frequently approved despite local objections, this one looked set to be refused despite local support.
“It’s a bit of a paradox that we’ve got the locals wanting this, when often they wouldn’t, yet for me those turbines are very big and very close to the road,” she said.
Ms Morley-Smith moved that the application should be rejected on that basis. However, Mr Morrison’s motion to grant won by a close vote of 7 to 6.