For those of us who hoped a few years ago that Scotland could become an exemplar of carbon reduction and that our best landscapes be protected at the same time, recent times have been depressing. While some compromise was always going to be necessary, the march of industrial scale wind farms to the edge of, and in some cases into, areas of prime wild land has been changing Scotland's finest panoramas. Until now, the Scottish Government ignored calls for a national strategic approach and left the process of deciding where wind farms might be sited to the ordinary planning process. However there are now signs that this may be changing.
More protection for the finest landscapes?
Following persistent criticisms, along with concerns expressed by high profile figures such as Cameron McNeish and Hamish McInnes, the Scottish Government does appear to accept that there are areas where wind farms should not be built. The Government recently put Scotland's Third National Planning Framework Main Issues Report and Draft Framework and The Scottish Policy Planning Consultation Draft out to public consultation. NEMT's response to these two documents is outlined elsewhere in this edition of Mountain Views. What is of interest here are the Government's proposals in these documents to zone wild land into two bands:
There is, however, a significant caveat in that it is stated that local authorities should not impose additional zones around areas considered unsuitable for wind farms.
Does this change things? It brings some clarity but only time will tell if it alters the situation much. The Cairngorms National Park Authority had already set its face against significant wind developments and clearly wind farms were never going to be built in some areas of outstanding beauty. The protection afforded to group 2 zones is limited and NEMT has argued the case that SNH's core areas of wild land should be included in Group 1. In addition, the caveat that buffer zones should not be created is troubling. The Cairngorms National Park could still end up being ringed by industrial scale developments visible from most parts of the plateau. Nevertheless, the government has, at last, recognised that there are legitimate concerns, and this is a start.
Meanwhile back on the ground
Problematic proposals are coming thick and fast and the following can only give a flavour of some of what is happening:
Scottish Natural Heritage's core areas of wild land map and their latest map showing existing and proposed wind farms
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