Highlands & Islands

Allt Duine wind farm public inquiry starts in Aviemore

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Media captionThe Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Cairngorms National Park Authority oppose the wind farm planned for Allt Duine in the Monadhliath Mountains

A public inquiry examining plans for a 31-turbine wind farm close to the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park has started in Aviemore.

RWE Npower Renewables has proposed the development for the site at Allt Duine in the Monadhliath Mountains.

Kincraig Community Council has backed the project saying it would help Badenoch and Strathspey be self sufficient in terms of electricity.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and other groups oppose the plan.

RWE Npower Renewables had proposed 34 turbines, but reduced the size of the scheme following public consultation.

The turbines will have a maximum height to blade tip of 125m (410ft). At three locations the developer said the height would be restricted to 110m (360ft) to avoid turbines from being seen at viewpoints within the Strathspey area.

'Unspoilt landscape'

In January, Highland Council's south planning applications committee voted nine to three to oppose the project.

Councillors took the UK's highest railway journey to help them assess the potential visual impact of the Allt Duine scheme.

They travelled on the Cairngorms funicular railway which climbs to 1,097m (3,599ft).

The railway's highest point is just below the summit of CairnGorm Mountain.

The Scottish government, which has the final say on the development, had consulted Highland Council. The local authority's decision to oppose the project resulted in government holding the public inquiry.

Image caption In January, councillors travelled on the Cairngorms funicular to help them assess the proposed site

Before the start of the inquiry, Kincraig Community Council told BBC Radio Scotland it was supporting the wind farm.

Spokesman John Anderson said the community council had waited until it had all the facts before voting on it.

Mr Anderson said the wind farm would help to tackle climate change, conserve fossil fuels for future generations and allow the area of Badenoch and Strathspey to generate its own electricity and not have to rely on power produced in other people's "back yards".

He added: "The hills that we have are very, very valuable, but at the same time the Scottish government has been trying to get businesses into the Highlands and Islands for years and here we have a company that can come in and harvest the wind in the area."

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has been campaigning against the development, warning that it would harm an unspoilt landscape.

Chief officer David Gibson said: "We support green energy generation but this scheme involves dumping 15,500 tonnes of concrete and miles of roads in mountain areas of national importance and beauty.

"Wind farms are supposed to have a lifetime of 25 years, we would therefore expect developers to include proposals for site restitution in their plans as evidence of good stewardship of the environment.

"This public inquiry should protect our precious natural environment by putting a stop to this completely inappropriate project."

The Cairngorms National Park Authority has also lodged an objection to the public inquiry. It said some of the turbines would come as close as 900m (2,952ft) from the park's boundary.

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