The John Muir Trust has welcomed the decision by Highland Council officials to object to Caplich Wind Farm, which is partially in Wild Land Area 34 in north west Sutherland.
The decision to oppose the application was taken under delegated powers by Highlands council planning officials, after consultation with local councillors.
The proposed wind farm which would involve the erection of 20 turbines each with a generating capacity of 3.4MW and up to 132 metres high and the construction of an extensive network of access roads is now in the hands of the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government last year rejected two similar applications in the same Wild Land Area, at Glencassley and Sallachy. Ministers could either reject the proposal outright or hold a Public Local Inquiry.
John Low, Policy Officer with the John Muir Trust, praised the decision and said: “In 2015 the Trust launched a campaign to protect Wild Land Area 34 from the threat posed by three wind farm proposals – Glencassley, Sallachy and Caplich.
“In November we were heartened by the Scottish Government decision to refuse consent for Glencassley and Sallachy. This latest decision by the council means we are another step closer to ensuring that wild land is protected for future generations.
“Highland councillors and planners are to be congratulated for making the correct call by objecting to Caplich. The decision is in line with the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 3, which states: ‘We also want to continue our strong protection for our wildest landscapes – wild land is a nationally important asset.’
“The objection is in line with a string of decisions last year to refuse applications for large-scale wind farms at Limekilns, Allt Duine, Carn Gorm, Glencassley and Sallachy.
“We are heartened that Wild Land is now is receiving the protection it deserves from local and national government – and are hopeful that this commitment will be further reinforced when Highland councillors consider the Gordonbush Extension soon.
“We have long argued that instead of covering Scotland’s wild land with turbines, pylons, power lines and access tracks, these areas could be transformed into living landscapes of trees and wildlife, with people and local communities benefitting from nature-based jobs and year-round tourism.”
Lanarkshire-based developer Muirhall Energy had hoped that the wind farm would be developed in partnership with local community groups who could hold a share ownership of up to 10% of the wind farm company.
The proposed development site is approximately 10km from Rosehall, 20km from Lairg and 25km from Ullapool and a company spokesman said the site has been chosen due to its setting within a natural basin which partially screens views from neighbouring settlements and much of the surrounding area.