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Date set for inquiry into Loch Ness green energy scheme

By Scott Maclennan

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Work will start next year on a green energy scheme at Loch Ness if it gets the go-ahead at a planning inquiry.

The Courier can reveal that a public local inquiry (PLI) into the Red John pumped storage hydro scheme, planned for a site near Dores, will start on August 24.

It comes after the £625 million scheme has been rejected twice by councillors – despite officers recommending approval. Concerns included construction traffic and visual impact.

It is understood that Highland Council wanted the inquiry to be put off until November due to the Covid-19 outbreak and says it will be “challenging “ to meet some deadlines, while developer Intelligent Land Investments Ltd (ILI) was pleased.

“We see it as very positive because the sooner we get to go through PLI the better,” said ILI’s CEO Mark Wilson.

“Obviously it is up to the reporter to decide and we will do our best to demonstrate that it is a great project. Site visits for the reporter and the council have to happen, and again we see that as a positive.

“Nothing has changed in so far as our belief in the project’s potential to bring huge benefits but it is now with the PLI.”

The process is likely to take a few days and a decision will be made later. If Red John goes ahead, it could see up to £400 million of much-needed post-lockdown investment directly into the local economy and create jobs.

Even Inverness Caley Thistle could reap rewards as it would lease ground for a huge park and ride scheme for construction workers – a key element in the plan to limit traffic movements.

A council spokesman said: “Some of the intermediate dates to lodge hearing statements and documents for an August hearing session will be challenging to meet even if there is some easing of the current restrictions regarding travel and provision of overnight accommodation. This has been raised with the reporter and a decision on lodging dates is awaited.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Further details of the arrangements will be issued to parties shortly.”

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