The head of policy at the John Muir Trust has urged north councillors to next week reject revised proposals for a 24-turbine windfarm in Caithness.
Helen McDade said it was “inexplicable” that fresh proposals for Limekiln Estate, Reay, have been recommended for approval by planners, given the similarity to plans thrown out by Scottish ministers in 2015 following a public inquiry.
Dorset-based Infinergy want to build nine 413ft turbines, and 15 structures of 456ft which would have the potential to power up to 45,000 homes.
But Highland councillors objected to the original proposals and will consider whether to reject revised plans at the North Planning Applications Committee next Tuesday.
In her letter, Ms McDade states: “It is with considerable dismay that the Trust finds that Highland Council officials again recommend that the local authority should not object to an almost identical scheme. This illogical recommendation is further undermined by the fact that since the failed application, the Scottish Government has given Wild Land Areas increased protection from wind development in Scottish Planning Policy.”
Ms McDade stressed that the Wild Land Area adjacent to the site is one of the smallest identified by Scottish Natural Heritage, stating any development on the margins would have a “disproportionate impact” on the whole area.
Planning officials state in their report that the development is “not considered to affect the wild land areas a whole” and that the impact would be limited.
Ms McDade added: “It should also be noted that Highland Council was inundated with 283 objections to the proposal – including from Caithness West Community Council – and received just one letter of support.
“Given the background to this reapplication, then Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee must surely reject this inexplicable recommendation by planning officials.”
Project manager Fiona Milligan said stressed the windfarm was “in no part situated within a Wild Land Area”.
She added: “Highland Council did not object to the proposal based on wild land concerns previously and it is because of the findings of the Scottish Government that Infinergy resubmitted the same proposal with additional information addressing wild land impacts.
“In all other respects, Scottish Ministers found the scheme would “not give rise to any detrimental impacts, either singly or cumulatively, sufficient to outweigh the benefits”, a position supported by The Highland Council’s senior planning officer.”