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Scottish Ministers' halt to new 17-turbine wind farm plans south of Nairn welcomed by councillors

By Federica Stefani

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A photomontage of how one angle would look of the Lethen development (Fred Olsen).
A photomontage of how one angle would look of the Lethen development (Fred Olsen).

NAIRN councillors have welcomed the decision by Scottish Ministers to halt plans to build a controversial wind farm on the Dava Moor south of Nairn.

Last week the Scottish Government rejected the proposal to build the new 17-turbine Lethen Wind Farm about 16 miles south of the town.

Applicant Fred Olsen Renewables had been seeking permission to develop a wind farm with turbines with a maximum blade tip height of 185 metres alongside 14.5 km of access tracks, a substation, energy storage facility, control building, meteorological mast and other infrastructure.

The wind farm would have been operational for 35 years.

The application had already been refused by Highland Council, in August last year, with councillors unanimous in their decision against it.

At that time members of the south planning applications committee agreed that the impact on the wider area – on which close to 400 wind turbines have already been built or are under construction – would be significantly adverse.

Council officers had recommended rejecting the application as it showed, in their view, “insufficient regard to preserving natural beauty of the countryside".

Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban, a member of the planning committee which rejected the application, said at the time the proposal "made a mockery of the Dava moor Special Landscape Area Citation."

Nairn and Cawdor councillor Paul Oldham said last week, following the news that the Scottish Government had also decided to reject the application: "Wind turbines are a regrettable necessity, but they need careful siting especially when, as with this one, the turbines are over 150m tip height so have to have warning lights on them at night, and I am very pleased that the Scottish Government has agreed with us that this is not a suitable location."

Councillor Paul Oldham.
Councillor Paul Oldham.

A decision letter published last Friday stated that the application was refused due to the "significant visual and landscape impact" of the proposed development "which cannot be mitigated", as well as adverse impact on the setting of Lochindorb Castle which also could not be mitigated.

It stated: "The Scottish Ministers...consider that although the significant landscape and visual impacts, including cumulative, would be acceptable in the context of the net economic benefits and the significant renewable energy benefits that would be delivered if the proposed development were to be deployed, the impacts on the historic environment, and the integrity of the setting of the Lochindorb Castle scheduled monument would not be acceptable.

"The Scottish Ministers...ultimately reach the conclusion that despite the many factors in favour of the proposed development, this is not the right development in the right place and it is not acceptable overall."

Cllr Laurie Fraser, Nairn and Cawdor, who was among those objecting to the plans in August, added of the Scottish Government ruling: "That's probably the right decision in the end.

Councillor Laurie Fraser.
Councillor Laurie Fraser.

"I have never supported these things, we have enough wind farms in the country. In my view these developments are just cash-generators."

The Scottish Ministers' decision is essentially final though theoretically an application could still be made to the Court of Session for a judicial review.

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