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BREAKING: Highland Council rejects vital Caley Thistle renewables project with club’s future now in doubt

By Scott Maclennan

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The field behind Fairways Business Park locator. Picture: James Mackenzie.
The field behind Fairways Business Park locator. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Highland Council has rejected Caledonian Thistle’s application for a battery storage facility at Fairways after the project was pulled-in for review.

A total of 30 councillors voted for refusal, 23 voted to support the plan and three abstained.

The club had wanted the project – a battery energy storage system (BESS) worth £3.4 million – to secure its financial future, which it is now feared could be in grave jeopardy.

The extensive two hour debate centred largely on the safety of BESS and the lack of guidance afforded planning bodies in Scotland as fire safety is not currently a planning issue.

The debate also touched on the public interest with a couple of SNP members claiming they found that “intimidating” others disagreed saying they did not find it anything other than “passionate.”

Officials introducing the planning application highlighted the pros and cons. The pros included: supported by national policy, socio-economic benefits and the contribution to net zero. The cons were listed as loss of greenspace and the loss of amenity.

Councillors were asked to vote on the issue after Cromarty Firth member Maxine Smith brought an amendment based on national policy supporting net zero and renewables acknowledging the loss of greenspace was small.

That was set against the motion by Councillors Thomas MacLennan and Paul Oldham who wanted to see the development refused.


The saga started last year ahead of a meeting of the south planning committee when the application was recommended for refusal by council officers, sparking the ire of club bosses who felt that was unfair.

They may have had a point, of the four reasons for refusal – noise, loss of open space, drainage, and biodiversity impact – just one remained by the time it came to committee: loss of green space.

Councillors decided to defer the application for a site visit, something which happened in February before another meeting of the planning committee where it was approved by a vote 3-2.

Yet in an almost unheard of move just five days later the committee’s chairman and vice chairman – Councillors Thomas MacLennan and Paul Oldham – submitted a notice of amendment to have it reviewed.

Both councillors voted against the application and then wrote to other members arguing that a vote involving just five members was “not a good look” for the local authority.

The club reacted with fury with chairman Ross Morrison saying “this absolutely stinks,” adding he fears those involved are “hellbent on killing the club by abusing their power”.

Ultimately 30 members supported bringing the application to a meeting of full council – 13 from the SNP, five from the Liberal Democrats, four from the Independents, three each from the Greens and the Tories and two from the Highland Alliance.

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