Highlands & Islands

Wild land protection plea after wind farm objections in Highlands

Ben Wyvis
Image caption The slopes of Ben Wyvis had been earmarked for turbines

Council objections to three Highland wind farms have led to the Scottish government being urged to create a national plan to protect wild areas.

Highland Council's decision will result in two government local inquiries into plans for 61 turbines in its area.

It has written to Holyrood urging the adoption of proposals to protect "wild land" and has been backed by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

The government said it was "currently reviewing Scottish planning policy".

However, the mountaineering body's chief officer, David Gibson, accused it of inaction and said it "simply appears weak in its failure to care for the Scottish countryside".

"There are real concerns that planning departments, with limited resources, are being seriously overstretched by inappropriate wind farm applications by large energy companies which are happy to industrialise Scotland's mountains for the sake of their own profits," he said.

'Blatantly unsuitable'

"Scotland needs a national renewables spatial planning policy to decide what can be built where."

Wind Energy had applied to build 34 turbines at Glenmorie near Ardgay, SSE Renewables for 27 at Dalnessie near Lairg, while Elck Renewables had wanted to erect 17 at Clach Liath.

"In the case of Clach Liath, on the slopes of Ben Wyvis, the application was so blatantly unsuitable it was kicked out before even reaching the planning committee," said Mr Gibson, who criticised the first minister's enthusiasm for renewables.

"With Dalnessie and Glenmorie, we believe that special praise is due to the SNP councillors who refused to bow to Alex Salmond's seeming willingness to allow power companies to industrialise our landscapes by building vast wind farms in highly inappropriate settings."

With opponents vowing to continue to oppose the proposals, one of the companies involved, SSE Renewables, expressed disappointment but stressed that it had no plans to ditch its proposal.

"The final decision for the wind farm proposal, which comprises 27 turbines with a total installed capacity of up to 81MW, rests with Scottish ministers," it stated on its website.

'Fewer suitable sites'

The Glenmorie proposal had been unanimously rejected by Highland Council north planning committee, while Dalnessie was turned down via the casting vote of the chair after a five-all tie, both against the recommendations by officials.

Committee chair Isobel McCalum told BBC Scotland: "As time goes by, I think you will find that there will be fewer suitable sites available for applications."

She said the council was writing to the government urging it to support a Scottish Natural Heritage proposal to protect what it designated as "wild land".

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We provide clear guidance to local authorities and developers on the location of wind turbine developments to ensure that developments only go ahead in the right places.

"We are currently reviewing Scottish planning policy and we plan to launch a consultation in spring 2013.

"Scotland has huge clean green energy resources and many communities in Scotland now benefit from the renewable energy resources in their area."

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