Windfarm plans blown off course after world heritage vision for Flow Country not included in planning report

Campaigners fear a revised strategy could open the floodgates for more giant turbines in Highland.
Campaigners fear a revised strategy could open the floodgates for more giant turbines in Highland.

Two wind projects planned for the Highlands were blown off course yesterday by councillors.

Members of the north planning committee deferred making a decision about a 24-turbine scheme proposed for Limekiln Estate in Caithness – and hampered plans for two giant offshore turbines that could float off Dounreay.

Debate on the Limekiln plan was postponed for a month because the planning officer’s report lacked information about a live application for World Heritage Status for the carbon-storing Flow Country peatland that straddles Caithness and Sutherland.

The detail could be crucial to consideration of Infinergy’s plans for building 456ft wind turbines near Reay.

Due to the scale of the proposed development, Scottish Ministers could overrule the councillors’ opinions but the local authority is a statutory consultee.

Public objections range from “visual blight” and “loss of wild land” to the “need” for more turbines.

Infinergy has submitted revised plans since losing a public inquiry over a previous application.

Council solicitor Karen Lyons told committee members “no mention” was made of the world heritage ambition in Scottish Natural Heritage’s response to the windfarm plan and, therefore, did not feature in the planning officer’s report.

It was hoped the full information would be available for scrutiny next month.

Fiona Milligan of Infinergy said: “We look forward to SNH clarifying the position so members are able to make a fully informed decision.”

A spokeswoman for SNH said: “We have provided advice on the Limekiln application including advice on the potential impacts on peatlands.”

The Flow Country is on a tentative list of world heritage sites. SNH is among a host of organisations that make up the Peatlands Partnership which is leading the application.

The proposed 660ft tall Dounreay turbine plan by Dounreay Tri Ltd will be considered in February. Committee members agreed they needed more time to digest the detail having only received their papers on that agenda item 24 hours earlier.