A council planning committee is facing a 2000ft trek up a mountain into snow drifts to visit the proposed site of a controversial wind farm.

The visit to the Monadhliath Mountains between the A9 and Loch Ness is necessary to examine SSE's plans for the 83 turbine Stronelairg wind farm.

Ministers will make a final decision, but if the council does object it will trigger a public inquiry

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The plans have already been scaled down from 144 turbines, but now the committee is being advised not to object as long as the number of turbines, each 443ft high, is further reduced by 16 to 67.

The council has received 138 letters of objection, including from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the wild land charity the John Muir Trust, and only four in support.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has objected because of the adverse impact the development would have on wild land and the wider landscape.

A spokesman for SNH said it would maintain its objection even if the number of turbines was reduced to 67.

Now councillors have decided by a narrow margin that they had to see the site for themselves to appreciate its true wildness.

This was against the advice of their planning officials who said much of the site could only be viewed from the tops of Munro (above 3000ft) and Corbett (2500-3000ft) mountains.

But Inverness councillor, independent nationalist Donnie Kerr moved that the committee should make the effort: He said: "The argument is about wild land, and that can not be taken from a photograph. It is something you feel and sense.

"Accessibility is not the factor is used to be. We can get our hiking boots on, or a friend of mine has a dog sled team.

"I could make inquiries."