Brian Heaton

No new full applications for planning permission for windfarms, warranting a response from the NEMT, have been submitted since the last edition of this journal. At least two are expected, and the article by Marijke Ross following this article draws attention to and asks for support in objecting to the one planned for Glen Dye. However, one significant development did take place which could have a direct effect on planning applications in areas of concern to the NEMT.

Creag Riabhach © C Eilbeck
Creag Riabhach © C Eilbeck

Following the development of the Wild Land Areas map in 2014 no wind farm planning permission had been given for the construction of windmills in any of the designated areas. John Swinney, in 2015, refused permission for the development of the Allt Duine wind farm, situated on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park and having an impact of the Monadhliath Wild Land Area 20. He cited, as one of the reasons, “The Scottish Government’s policy on wind farms strikes a careful balance between maximising Scotland’s huge green energy potential and protecting some of our most scenic landscape and wild areas”

At the time it was felt this was a positive move forward and it was hoped it would influence future developments in other Wild Land areas. However, in October 2016, Paul Whitehouse, the Business, Innovation and Energy Minister, gave permission for the development of the Creag Riabhach Wind Farm at Altnaharra in Sutherland. Five of the turbines will actually be constructed within the Wild Land Area 37. The development is a massive undertaking and will have a significant impact. The designation of the area will have to be changed and the boundary of Area 37 made smaller.

The NEMT felt they should register their concern and the letter that follows was sent to the minister. There has however been a recent further development. A petition, which was used to back the project, was reported by the Scotsman newspaper to contain over 250 names of persons living in Doncaster, Fraserburgh and Dunfermline. Somewhat coincidently, a company owned by the owner of the Altnaharra Estate has branches in the same towns.

However the neighbouring landowner, Anders Povlsen, through his company Wildland Ltd. has now confirmed he is seeking a judicial review of the decision and is lodging an appeal at the Court of Session. We will report on the outcome of this appeal.

Creag Riabhach Wind Farm

Dear, Mr. Wheelhouse,

I am writing on behalf of the North East Mountain Trust (NEMT), a voluntary body, based in the Grampian area, which represents the interests of hill-goers and those who enjoy visiting wild land. NEMT membership, comprising twelve hillwalking and climbing clubs along with individual members, totals around 900 people. NEMT maintains an interest on behalf of its members across the whole of Scotland but has a particular focus on the Cairngorms and the wider Grampian area. Our position with regard to the construction of wind farms is that they are part of a balanced energy production policy and we support the Scottish Governments efforts to decarbonise the economy. We do however believe that this should (and can) be brought about without detriment to Scotland’s finest hill and mountain landscapes.

I write regarding the consent given to the application for the Creag Riabhach wind farm at the Altnaharra Estate in Sutherland. This involves the placement of 5 of the 22 turbines that are to be constructed in area 37 of the Scottish Natural Heritage wild land map. Whilst inclusion in an area of this map brings no additional protections it is implicit in several of the paragraphs within the accompanying document that large scale infrastructure projects should not take place within these areas. Almost by definition, the inclusion of such a project in a designated area automatically removes its status as a wild land resulting in the decrease of such areas in Scotland.

Your colleague John Swinney, when announcing the rejection of the Allt Duine wind farm acknowledged the importance of such wild areas and said “The Scottish Government’s policy on wind farms strikes a careful balance between maximising Scotland’s huge green energy potential and protecting some of our most scenic landscape and wild areas”

I write to ask if this is still the policy of the Scottish Government and for confirmation that this decision will not create a precedent which can be used to support future planning applications in wild land areas identified in the map produced by Scottish Natural Heritage.

With thanks,
Brian Heaton

cc Roseanna Cunningham

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