Controversial plan for eco-village expansion approved
The Findhorn Ecovillage has 400 residents, who produce their own food and spend their own currency.
By Jenness Mitchell and Iain Ramage
A controversial plan to build dozens of new homes on the Moray coast has been approved despite concerns the development could destroy a beach-based community's tranquillity and rare wildlife.
The Findhorn Ecovillage was built on a platform of harmony and spiritual well-being.
The eco-village currently has a population of around 400 residents - who produce their own food and energy, and spend their own currency.
Developer Duneland's vision split the community with more than 50 objections submitted to the council against 11 letters of support.
Protesters argued that the 38 new homes and three craft studios would negatively affect the natural sand dunes, with additional safety fears over traffic and threats to protected wildlife.
Critics branded some of the proposed upmarket homes as "eco mansions" due to their size.
Those that voiced their support said the development was within the ethos of the hamlet.
On Tuesday, Moray Council's planning committee approved the application for planning permission in principal by seven votes to three.
Annie Crawford, who lives in the village, previously highlighted the division in the community.
She said: "People have taken things to heart, there's been conflict on a very deep personal level with people.
"It's thrown up a lot of division about finances - the haves and have-nots - and that isn't the kind of environment we would choose to live in."
Ms Crawford told STV News she was disappointed with the planning approval due to the number of objections submitted and the protesters' "major health and safety concerns" over road access near to a children's playground.
'We're excited about the prospect to continue to develop plans to deliver a truly environmentally respectful development at North Whins.'Greg Paul, Duneland
She added that Moray Council were "coming from the wrong place" if they felt the development enhanced nature and is fearful more houses will be built in the future.
Ms Crawford added: "Where do you stop?
"But all is not lost. We'll be looking to appeal the decision and will take it from there."
Although acknowledging the objections, Duneland stated that expansion has always been on the agenda.
Spokesman Greg Paul said the original vision for the community was as a "city of light".
Commenting on the planning approval, he stated: "We're delighted with the decision.
"We're excited about the prospect to continue to develop plans to deliver a truly environmentally respectful development at North Whins."