CONSERVATIONISTS have welcomed a "major U-turn" by an energy company, which has withdrawn plans for a wind farm that was to be the subject of a public inquiry.

SSE said yesterday it would no longer apply to build the Dalnessie wind farm in Sutherland. It is also dropping plans to construct an extension to the Fairburn wind farm in Glen Orrin, Ross-shire.

Dalnessie was one of two developments to be examined by public inquiries following objections from the Highland Council. The John Muir Trust had also opposed the application on the grounds that it was on an area of wild land.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, said: "This is a major U-turn by SSE and a victory for those who want to see Scotland's wild land protected against large-scale, industrial-style development.

"This wind farm would have involved not just the erection of dozens of turbines, but the excavation of thousands of tonnes of rock and the construction of tens of miles of access roads on a spectacular wild landscape.

"This was an unsuitable development that should never have been brought forward in the first place. It has wasted a huge amount of time, effort and money, with councillors, planning officials, local communities, environmentalists and SSE all involved in the process."

SSE said the decision to withdraw the applications was made because continued investment was no longer financially viable.

Colin Nicol, SSE Director of Onshore Renewables, said: "The decision to end Dalnessie and Fairburn Extension means that we can redirect resource."