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WILL CLARK: Valid reason for Inverness Caledonian Thistle to cry foul over battery farm and attempt by Highland councillors to review decision which was approved

By Will Clark

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Councillors made a site visit to the proposed location of the battery energy storage facility before voting earlier this month.
Councillors made a site visit to the proposed location of the battery energy storage facility before voting earlier this month.

They think it is all over. But it might not be yet.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle were celebrating earlier this month when they were given planning approval to build a battery energy storage facility at land beside Fairways Business Park.

In a vote held at the Highland Council South Planning Applications Committee, councillors who participated in the meeting gave approval for the project to go ahead by three votes to two.

It was a deal that was celebrated by Caley Thistle’s board as safeguarding the future of the club and earning them an estimated seven figure sum.

However, it was revealed last week that two councillors who voted against the plan – the chairman and vice chairman of the planning committee Thomas MacLennan (Fort William and Ardnamurchan) and Paul Oldham (Nairn and Cawdor) – want a replay.

They are reported to be uncomfortable with the way the application was decided saying it wasn’t a good look for the council when so few councillors could make such an important decision.

They have written to all members asking them to support what is called a notice of amendment to have the decision reviewed at the full council meeting next month.

Whatever your views on the application, the fact that a democratic process was followed through to the rules of Highland Council protocol, but is attempted to be recalled due to some councillors being uncomfortable with the result, is not a good look on democracy.

Before the vote on the application took place, it was asked that if the matter was deferred, could councillors who weren’t at the site visit, participate going forward? The answer, available to listen to on the Highland Council webcast meeting section, was they wouldn’t be able to participate going forward, as councillors must attend all aspects of a decision including site visits and meetings.

But after the application was decided, there are calls for the decision to be reviewed. It is an unheralded move, at least in my years as a journalist, for councillors to go against a decision they approved.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle chairman Ross Morrison blasted the attempt for the decision to be reviewed saying “This absolutely stinks.”

They have a right to feel aggrieved after receiving planning permission.

Morrison previously said how the club will be able to progress in the future will massively depend on the approval of the battery storage facility being given the go-ahead.

They said its operations such as its football academy, girls’football as well as the proposed Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Development Hub and projects it runs in the city and region with the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Trust are all at risk without funding from the project.

The battery storage facility has its fair share of supporters and objectors.

The project will help store energy to meet future demand as well as support the club’s operations. It will also result in the loss of green space and both arguments regarding the project are valid.

However, a decision to approve was made by councillors after a vote, and now there is attempt to review their decision and possibly reverse it. That is not a good look on the democratic process at Highland Council.

EXPLAINED: What kicked off the war of words between Highland Council and Inverness Caledonian Thistle?

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