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Appeal against Highland Council refusal of planning permission for wind farm near Dunbeath in Caithness by Energiekontor rejected by Scottish Government reporter


By Scott Maclennan

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A proposal to site six new turbines near Dunbeath has been rejected by the Scottish Government reporter because of the potential impact on the surrounding landscape.
A proposal to site six new turbines near Dunbeath has been rejected by the Scottish Government reporter because of the potential impact on the surrounding landscape.

London-based Energiekontor wanted to build six turbines with a tip height of 149.9 metres near Dunbeath, but its application – which attracted almost 200 objections – was rejected by Highland Council last June.

Objectors raised concerns about the impact on cultural heritage assets and archaeology, residential amenity, road users, tourists and recreational users, and natural heritage.

There were also concerns amongst almost 200 objections about the landscape and visual impact, scale of development, and the lack of significant economic benefits.

Sue Bell was appointed by Scottish ministers to review Energiekontor’s appeal and found the evidence supported the decision to refuse the application.

She said: “The turbines would introduce new vertical structures within the Sweeping Moorland and Flows LCT (Landscape Character Types), which has a strong horizontal theme.

“When viewed from the south and east close to the site the turbines would be experienced as tall vertical structures in the open and gently sloping landform.

“I find that this would alter the perception of the scale of the Lone Mountains LCT, particularly in terms of an appreciation of the mountains rising steeply from the surrounding land to form conspicuous landmarks.”

She also highlighted concerns raised by national conservation body NatureScot, detailing how it was concerned the proposals would “compromise the focal prominence and distinctiveness of the Lone Mountains which are otherwise emphasised by the current simplicity and openness of the surrounding moorland”.

She added: “NatureScot is also unconvinced by the appellant’s approach of considering the effects of the proposal mainly from the perspective of the Landscape and Visual Assessment viewpoints. It notes that whilst the viewpoints are illustrative, they do not fully capture the range of experiences for which the area is valued.”

She concluded that, overall, “the negative effects of the proposal would outweigh the benefits”.

An appeal against Highland Council refusing planning permission to a Caithness wind farm that attracted almost 200 objections has been roundly rejected by the Scottish Reporter.

London-based Energiekontor wanted to build six turbines with a tip height of 149.9 metres near Dunbeath but its application was rejected in June last year.

An unusually high number of comments objecting to the plans were received with 162 submitted before the deadline and another 32 were received after it, while 33 comments were submitted in support of the proposals.

Those who took issue with the development were largely concerned with the impact on cultural heritage assets and archaeology; residential amenity; road users; tourists and recreational users; natural heritage, habitats and species including the Flow Country.

There were also serious concerns about the landscape and visual impact; the scale of development; roads and infrastructure; socio-economic impacts; health and safety concerns; the lack of significant economic benefits and the lack of gains for CO2.

Sue Bell was appointed by the Scottish ministers to review Energiekontor’s appeal, and she ultimately found that the balance of evidence supported the council’s decision to refuse the application.

In the course of the review, she referred to: “The Sweeping Moorland and Flows Landscape Character Types (LCT) is large in scale and has a generally smooth landform and broadly uniform appearance.”

She highlighted key characteristics including the “long, low and largely uninterrupted skylines and views to the Lone Mountains” in the LCT, characterised by “individual mountains rising steeply from the surrounding land” forming conspicuous landmarks.

That poses problems for developers because, Ms Bell, continued: “The turbines would introduce new vertical structures within the Sweeping Moorland and Flows LCT, which has a strong horizontal theme.

“When viewed from the south and east close to the site, the turbines would be experienced as tall vertical structures in the open and gently sloping landform.

“I find that this would alter the perception of the scale of the Lone Mountains LCT, particularly in terms of an appreciation of the mountains rising steeply from the surrounding land to form conspicuous landmarks.”

She was not alone in that assessment, as NatureScot also took issue with the proposals, according to Ms Bell: “NatureScot considers that the proposals would ‘compromise the focal prominence and distinctiveness of the Lone Mountains which are otherwise emphasised by the current simplicity and openness of the surrounding moorland’ and because it ‘would highlight the eastern extent of the Wild Land Area boundary which, due to the simplicity of peatland landcover, is otherwise difficult to discern due to the lack of other prominent land based human artefacts.’

“NatureScot is also unconvinced by the appellant’s approach of considering the effects of the proposal mainly from the perspective of the Landscape and Visual Assessment viewpoints. It notes that whilst the viewpoints are illustrative, they do not fully capture the range of experiences for which the area is valued.”

She ended her report stating: “Nevertheless, for the reasons set out above, I have found that the proposal is not in accord with the LDP overall in respect of effects on landscape, visual receptors, wild land and cultural heritage features. That is, the negative effects of the proposal would outweigh the benefits.”


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