Planners OK 250MW 'Loch Ness' wind

Plans moved forward for a 67-turbine wind farm near the iconic Scottish landmark of Loch Ness after local politicians decided not to oppose the project.

Utility SSE wants to build the 250MW Stronelairg wind farm near Fort Augustus, next to its Glendoe hydropower plant.

The planning committee at Highland Council voted not to oppose the project, despite objections from campaigners over its impact on some of Scotland’s most renowned landscapes.

The decision means the Scottish Government in Edinburgh will now have the final say on Stronelairg – adding to a growing debate over the scope and location of onshore wind growth under the renewables-friendly administration of First Minister Alex Salmond.

Recent reports suggest the Scottish Government may be poised to designate large areas of the nation’s land as “wild”, potentially making it more difficult to build onshore wind farms in such zones.

SSE claimed the site of the Stronelairg project does not constitute wild land, and cited comments in the local planners’ report that “human activity and development” had become “part of the landscape” in the area in question.

SSE Renewables said it had taken care to make sure the Stronelairg wind farm had minimal impact and could not be seen from key local tourist sites, including Loch Ness and Great Glen, during a “sensitive” design process.

During the consultation phase the number of proposed turbines was cut by 16 and tower heights reduced for 10 others.