With volunteer inputs only, it is very difficult for NEMT to keep up with all the proposed developments which could be of concern because of their intrusion into the best hill landscapes. This is also proving a challenge to those NGOs which have paid staff and much greater resources! NEMT is regularly faced with decisions as to which proposals to take a stand on, given that our concerns are focussed solely on the principle of preventing the industrialisation of our finest upland areas. Macritch Hill (below) gives an example.
This proposed wind farm is at Backwater Reservoir near Glen Isla on land owned by Scottish Water. The area is outside the boundary of the National Park and cannot be construed as wild land but it is an area regularly visited by walkers. The original proposal has been scaled down by the developer with the number of turbines being reduced and their siting being changed. It will, if it goes ahead, be visible from the Driesh-Mayar plateau but the hand of man is already visible in a number of ways when looking south from there. NEMT decided not to object but did write to the Scottish Government Consents Unit expressing concern about the 'game' that developers are increasingly playing. Proposals are put forward which companies know will lead to objections and which they also know are unlikely to receive consent. They then scale back the number of turbines which appears to suggest that they are listening to concerns.
The proposal then receives approval and, surprise, surprise, a few years after the farm becomes operational, the developer returns with a proposal for an increase in the number of turbines arguing that visual intrusion already exists. This then receives consent.
Did NEMT make the right decision in not objecting to this one?
NEMT made a small donation to the John Muir Trust's appeal to support their legal action regarding this proposed major infrastructure development on the north side of the Monadhliath. This judicial review is considering concerns that the Scottish Ministers:
The hearing has taken place but a judgement is not expected until the summer.
Parallel to this, Scottish and Southern Energy is consulting on proposals for a substation for Stronelairg at the south end of the Corrieyairack 2km west of Garva Bridge. They have rejected the use of existing substations at Foyers and Fort Augustus on economic and technical grounds. This will be a significant structure (165m x 125m). SSE appears to be sensitive to environmental concerns and is proposing to:
NEMT has responded to the consultation as follows:
Taken along with what is going on at the southern end of the pass, this proposed development on the western slopes of the north end of the Corrieyairack would effectively industrialise the whole route. It would be highly visible from the hills at the north of Glen Roy and from Corrieyairack Hill. NEMT has lodged an objection.
In the last issue of Mountain Views, we reported that Highland Council rejected the application to create a wind farm on the slopes of Little Wyvis. NEMT had objected to this proposal. The developer has appealed and the Scottish Government has established a public enquiry.
The developer has withdrawn the proposal for this project south east of Glen Clova. Whether a further application will be forthcoming has yet to be seen.
A decision by the Scottish Government is still awaited. This major, and very controversial proposal, is on the southern slopes of the Monadhliath on the very boundary of the National Park.
As reported in the last issue of Mountain Views, this proposal for a major development at the south east corner of Loch Ericht will be a key test of how seriously local and central government take the spirit of the wild land map. The developer has asked for more time to present its case and the application will be presented to Perth and Kinross Council in May. NEMT, and numerous other bodies, have objected.
In itself, this is not a major development. NEMT objected because it is at the gateway to Glen Affric and so raises concerns regarding how far industrialisation will be allowed to creep towards this remote area. Because of delays by Highland Council, the developer has appealed to the Scottish Government.
Although part of Scotland's recent updated planning guidance, the wild land map carries no additional statutory protection for land. Time will tell what status planning authorities and central government confer on it. Worryingly, at the Stronelairig judicial review (see above) Counsel for Scottish Ministers argued that 'safeguarding' wild land means taking steps to mitigate the effects of developments, such as reducing the numbers of turbines, rather than protecting such areas from developments.
There is a considerable amount of smaller scale hydro development going on throughout the highlands. It is perhaps worth making the point that NEMT has not, to date, lodged an objection to any hydro proposals.
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