THE world's largest offshore wind farm development – 13 miles from the Caithness coast – has been backed by councillors despite opposition.

Highland Council said the economic benefits of the plan to build 339 turbines far out-weighed the visual impact or environmental concerns.

The development by Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd could supply power to the equivalent of one million homes, or 40% of Scotland's households.

The development could see three separate wind farms over a patch of sea larger than the area covered by Edinburgh City Council, but the final configuration is still to be agreed.

The total number of turbines would depend on the capability of those on the market when they are installed, but their maximum height to the tip of the blade will be 669ft – the equivalent of 50 double-decker buses.

Up to 2640 jobs could be created for building the initial infrastructure, with 1000 more posts on offer during the installation of the transmission equipment, grid and substations plus the operations phase.

There are still serious concerns at the Ministry of Defence the turbines will interfere with radar systems at RAF Lossiemouth and the National Air Traffic Services have similar worries about civil air services. The developers are working with them to find a solution.

The RSPB, salmon fishery boards and the Trump Organisation are also objecting.

Scottish Ministers will rule on the application given the scale of the proposals, but yesterday Highland Council's planning committee unanimously agreed not to object to the plan subject to a number of conditions –including one that local fishing interests be represented in further discussions.

Bill Fernie, independent councillor for Wick, said the plan had enormous potential for the Highlands, particularly the east coast ports of Wick and Nigg. He said: "Certainly the visual aspects are massive. And, let's face it, if these are successful there is the possibility they will keep expanding the field and others around that area.

"So we have to take account that we could be at the start of a really huge industry that will have significant effects on employment and the economy of the whole east coast of Scotland.

"That's what tips the balance for me."

Maxine Smith, SNP councillor for Invergordon, agreed, saying the economic benefits far outweighed any other consideration.

Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd is a joint venture between two leading European energy companies – Portugal's EDP Renewables UK and Spain's Repsol Nuevas Energias UK.