Highland councillors yesterday raised objections to a hydro-scheme on Loch Ness for a second time.
South planning committee councillors considered further information from developers ILI Group of Hamilton, intended to allay their previously voiced concerns about the £625m Red John 400MW pumped hydro-scheme near Dores.
Against officials’ advice, the councillors voted to continue to raise objections to the development.
The Scottish Government will ultimately decide the fate of the development, and councillors expect it to go to a public local inquiry.
They voiced further concerns about the visual impact; about the developers’ pledge to use the Caledonian Canal to transport massive tunnel boring equipment; and about their pledge to build a park and ride near the Caley Thistle stadium in Inverness with 250 places for workers to reduce the increase in traffic during the construction period.
Council leader Margaret Davidson agreed that the conditions to be imposed on the development had been substantially improved, but said it was not a development in which she had confidence.
She said: “I’ve listened to both sides for some time now. This is Loch Ness, the reason why many people come to Scotland, it’s of huge importance.
“I’m really surprised at the extent and visual impact of it, and surprised at buildings to be left on the skyline.
“It might look OK in 15 to 20 years, but I don’t want to see a parkland on the hill, acres of grass.
“I don’t want to see a fundamental change to an area like this for hundreds of years.
“A reporter at a public local inquiry will go through this in much greater detail but for now it makes me uneasy.”
Mrs Davidson said she needed to be sure that the developer really could transport the tunnelling equipment down the canal.
She said: “They can’t bring it by road, they will have to bring it down the canal, but there has been very little commercial activity there, it’s very narrow and few boats can get along it.”
Mrs Davidson said she also wanted assurance that the constructions worker will definitely use the Park & Ride.
Councillor Ron MacWilliam also voiced his reservations.
He said: “The sheer scale of the project in the most sensitive of locations calls for no stone to be left unturned in its design and build, if it’s to go ahead at all.
“The project sits at the visual entrance to our majestic Loch Ness that visitors from all over the world come to revel in.
“I wouldn’t say that tourism considerations come above energy necessity, but in trying to balance environmental, resident concerns, and transport this one didn’t quite measure up.”