The Scottish Government has approved highly controversial plans for a major wind farm in rural Perthshire, despite widespread opposition from hundreds of residents and organisations.
Developers have been battling for more than a decade to install a series of giant turbines at Greenscares, between Comrie and Braco.
The nine-turbine Strathallan Wind Farm project was rejected by councillors in April 2017, after more than 400 complaints. Among those who objected Gleneagles Hotel management and the head of an exclusive Perthshire estate used in the TV show Outlander.
The scheme was lodged several years after a similar four-turbine plan for the same site was refused.
Projects leaders defended the scheme, claiming a larger-scale development was actually better for the area.
But opponents – including five community councils – claim the wind farm would destroy the landscape and hit tourism.
Conservative councillor Murray Lyle – now council leader – said in 2017 developers were attempting to “defend the indefensible.”
The Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division has overturned the council’s decision and granted planning consent in a move that has surprised and baffled opponents.
Appeals reporter Scott Ferrie, who visited the site as part of his investigation, said the development would not be “over-bearing”, “out of scale” or “dominant” from various viewpoints.
He also said it would not impact several historic landmarks, including Ardoch, one of Scotland’s best preserved Roman forts which is within two miles. Many fear the turbines could “compromise” the setting of the ancient site.
Mr Ferrie wrote: “I am aware that planning permission was refused on appeal for four turbines… in January 2010. It may seem counter-intuitive to some to now grant permission for a scheme of nine turbines on the same site, albeit at a slightly reduced height.
“However, each proposal must be determined on its own merits and I am satisfied that a number of material differences between the two cases justify a different outcome in this case.”
Bill Thomson, of Braco and Greenloaning Community C0uncil, described it as a “rogue” decision.
He said: “It’s just bizarre. Completely outrageous.
“All the objections and concerns are still valid. They haven’t changed since this process began.
“We can’t understand this decision at all. I haven’t met anyone who is not extremely disappointed.”
SNP councillor Tom Gray, who previously said he was “appalled” by the project, said he was surprised by the Scottish Government’s assessment.
“I never could understand the developer’s claim that a larger wind farm would be better,” he said.
In its objection, Gleneagles claimed the scheme could impact on the “overall tourism offer” in Perthshire. A spokesman said there were “serious concerns” about the growing number of wind projects in the area.
Mike Aldridge, factor of the 61,000-acre Drummond Estate which was used in the hit series Outlander, said that future film crews would be put off by the turbines.
Unusually, both Perth and Kinross Council and Green Cat Renewables had claimed for expenses. Mr Ferrie has rejected both claims, stating that neither side appeared to have acted unreasonably.