Anti-windfarm campaigners have called for a moratorium on new turbine developments in the north amid fears the region is being “swamped” by turbines.
They claim 500 of the devices have been built or are planned within a few miles of iconic Loch Ness and want a full assessment carried out of the impact on the area’s scenery.
The protesters spoke out as members of Highland Council’s south planning committee granted permission for two wind speed masts near Drumnadrochit.
Energy firms Force 9 Energy and EDF want the structures to gather information for the proposed Cnoc an Eas windfarm near Balnain.
About 200 people objected to the mast plans because they were worried they would pave the way for more turbines in the area.
Anti-windfarm campaigner Lyndsey Ward said that there were more than 500 turbines already planned or approved within 20 miles of the Cnoc an Eas development.
She said: “That number must have a cumulative effect on the area.
“We need to stop this, it is out of control.
“People are now starting to realise that it’s not just the windfarms. They need transmission lines as well.”
Ms Ward added: “No other developments should be approved until those given permission are constructed so that we can see how many we have, if we need any more, if they are performing as expected and ask ‘can the landscape realistically absorb any more turbines?’.”
During yesterday’s meeting, Councillor Margaret Davidson pointed out that all the major items on the agenda were for windfarm-related developments in her ward, Aird and Loch Ness.
She said: “Almost every one of the objections is about the fact that it is a potential precursor to a windfarm.
“I think we need to be thinking about whether we pull the two things together.
“People are hacked off. They are seeing mast applications, then a windfarm application, then a substation application, and then an overhead transmission line application.
“I think that as elected members, we have a key issue about principle and practice and how we deal with windfarms.
“Communities are swamped by them. They are finding it difficult to cope and we are getting repeated large numbers of objections.
“We can see the extent of community feeling on this, although there is a mixture out there.”
She added: “Every time we get one of these, there is an increasing number of objections about the windfarm. We should take account of what that is happening.”
Inverness Central councillor Donnie Kerr said: “We have a lot of people writing in but we are more or less told we can’t do anything about it. It makes a mockery of consultation.”
Councillors approved the two masts yesterday on the condition bird deflectors were fixed to the guy ropes.
inverness South councillor Thomas Prag, who is also chairman of the local authority’s planning committee, said a report about windfarm strategy would be discussed by members next month, and this would update the council’s guidance on dealing with turbine applications.
He added: “If we made a policy statement to say that there was a moratorium in Highland, then the chances are that developers would still apply.
“We might try and refuse them but they could just go to appeal.
“While I can understand why people want a moratorium, the impact is that we lose control and hand over power to the government.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Smith, head of planning and development for Force 9 Energy, said: “I am very pleased with the pragmatic decision taken by the planning committee.
“We will be considering the issues raised and planning to go back out to the community with public exhibitions in the spring. We are considering the comments made.”