Highlands & Islands

Billionaire loses Creag Riabhach Wind Farm challenge

Wind turbine Image copyright Reuters

An estates owner has lost a bid to overturn Scottish government approval for a 22-turbine wind farm within wild land.

Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen raised a judicial review in a bid to have the decision set aside.

His Wildland Ltd, which owns the Ben Loyal, Kinloch and Hope and Melness estates, challenged approval of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm.

It is to be developed on a site on the Altnaharra Estate.

Wildland Ltd was among objectors to the wind farm in the Highlands.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby, who heard the judicial review, said Wildland Ltd's position appeared to be that no wind farm whatsoever should be allowed on designated wild land areas.

The judge said: "That may be, but that is a political decision and not one for the courts."

Lord Boyd said that 2014 Scottish planning policy provided more rigorous protection for wild land than that previously in place, but added: "It is not, however, an absolute protection against any development."

He said that different developments in size and location each brought their own specific location issues and environmental statements.

'We are saddened'

The judge said: "The impact on wild land will differ one from the other and the potential benefits of the developments will also no doubt differ."

He added: "It is not for the court to make assessments as to why decisions on individual applications might reach different results.

"These are planning judgements for ministers on the facts of each case applying the policy in force at the time."

In the court action, it was claimed that ministers had shown "clear and consistent decision-making and safeguarding of wild land" in rejecting other projects in different parts of Scotland.

It was also claimed that Creag Riabhach Wind Farm was the first case in which consent was given for "commercial wind-scale turbines within wild land".

A spokesman for Wildland Ltd and Ltd and the Welbeck Estates said: "We are saddened and disappointed at the court's decision.

"Let there be no doubt - this development is a substantial incursion into the wildland area between Foinaven, Ben Hee, Arkle, Ben Hope, Ben Loyal and Ben Klibreck - from whose summits this industrial scale development will be highly visible.

"We suspect the same can be said for Suilven, Quinag and Canisp in Assynt as well."

Developer, Creag Riabhach Wind Farm Ltd, has welcomed the court's decision.

Director Tim Philpot said: "We now look forward to delivering a successful project that will not only generate up to 72.6MW of clean, renewable energy, but will also give the communities of the north Highlands region a lasting legacy benefit.

"I would like to once again thank all those who have supported us throughout this process."

Following the court's decision, Mountaineering Scotland and the John Muir Trust have both called for greater protection of wild land from development.

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