A Highland councillor yesterday expressed his lack of faith in Scottish Government planners over their decision to grant planning permission to a controversial wind farm development in Caithness.
Councillor Donnie Mackay, vice chairman of the North Planning Applications Committee, delivered the scathing view after the committee was delivered the findings of the public inquiries held into the developments at Limekiln and Drum Hollistan, near to the village of Reay.
Mr Mackay made the remarks as the committee meeting drew to a close, describing the ordeal as a “scandal” after approval was awarded by the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) of the Scottish Government to the Limekiln development.
He said: “I have no faith in Scottish planners whatsoever after refusing Reay in the first instance and then overturning it in the second.
“I have no faith in the reporter’s decision and the whole village of Reay is up in arms.
“I think it’s a scandal.”
The Highland Council had opposed both the Limekiln and Drum Hollistan developments prior to two public inquiries in February 2018; however, the seal of approval by DPEA for the Limekiln development was delivered by reporters last month – albeit with a reduction of the amenity from an initial 24 turbines to 21.
Reporters on behalf of the DPEA have argued that the development at Limekiln, situated right next to the road of the famed North Coast 500 route, will provide a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy, with a community benefit fund expected to receive £315,000 a year.
Approximately 200 jobs are expected to be created during the scheme’s development, which is being taken forward by firms Infirmergy and Boralex.
Gilian Macpherson, a resident who delivered a 1,500-strong petition to the Scottish Government in opposition to the scheme, said at the time of the reports issuing that the news was “devastating”.
She added: “There should never be massive turbines like this so near to the village.
“I have spoken to lots of people who have been travelling the NC500 and they have complained about the damage to the scenery caused by existing wind farms.”
However, DPEA reporters have refused consent to the Drum Hollistan development after it deemed the significant impact of the development to be detrimental to the area.
It states: “The benefits of the proposal would not be sufficient to outweigh the significant adverse effects identified, in particular, as its landscape and visual impact.”
Councillors approve next phase of Alness housing development
The next stage of a major housing development in Alness was given the seal of approval at yesterday’s North Planning Applications Committee meeting at the Highland Council HQ.
The proposal, submitted by Albyn Housing Society, is to deliver 115 homes as part of the fifth phase of the project, with the overall outlay producing approximately 200 houses.
Forty-five houses will be constructed during phase five A, with a further 70 serviced plots coming as part of phase five B. The developer has also signalled their intention to provide the necessary surrounding infrastructure, as well as developing the road network in the area.
The development is situated near to Alness Academy and will deliver a mixture of flats, terraced and semi-detached houses, as well as the expansion of the existing play area.
Councillor Craig Fraser praised the development for the use of solar PV panels, however, raised the issue over the installation of vehicle charging points.
He said: “I am pleased to see the use of solar PV panels.
“I wondered if it would be more appropriate to install vehicle charging points now as part of a road property infrastructure and should planning be requesting this outset from future developments at outset, because that may encourage more people to consider the vehicles they use.”
Planning permission in principle for the project was provided in May 2013, with 200 houses to be developed across eight phases.
The proposal has been praised by Highland Council planners for its high percentage of affordable housing, mixed with the provision of private housing.