A multi-million pound wind farm has been forced to close because it makes too much noise in a landmark ruling that could lead to others being shut down.
Residents living near the 23 turbines have won an order making the operators turn off the generators after claiming their lives were being made a misery.
The unprecedented banning order only lasts a month but is designed to force the power company to make provisions to reduce the problem.
If they do not come to an arrangement with the locals then the ban could be extended.
It is believed that the closure, which will cost Scottish and southern Electricity hundreds of thousands of pounds, could lead to similar action being taken by residents living near other wind farms.
The £55 million turbines at Athany in the Scottish Highlands ground to a halt after complaints from residents that their lives are being made a misery by the constant whirring of the blades.
People living close to the wind farm complained to the council that their complaints were being ignored.
Highland Council imposed the ban, saying the company breached planning controls by failing to deal with excessive noise from the development which came on stream in July last year and generates 40MW of power.
Gordon Moonie, Highland Council’s principal planner, confirmed that it was the first time the authority had issued a notice of this type.
He said he was unaware of any other council taking similar action.
“This temporary stop notice was introduced under a 2006 Act and it hasn’t been used very often, but it is quite an effective way of dealing with a breach of planning control,” he said.
“In a sense it affects the company where it hurts – in their pocket.”
Mr Moonie revealed that the problems with Achany had been ongoing for about a year, with constant complaints to planners about noise.
“We were getting complaints from the local people and the community and we weren’t getting any action from SSE, so we decided that the best way forward was to serve this temporary stop notice,” he said.
“It means that the wind farm has to cease operating and we can then get around the table and agree a way forward that is in everyone’s interest.”
According to the stop notice, SSE breached planning controls by failing to provide a scheme for mitigating noise levels prior to the development coming on stream.
They also failed to comply with a request to measure noise levels at two local properties just over a mile from the wind farm when specifically asked to do so following complaints from the householders.