A wind farm developer is facing an uphill struggle over a proposed 17-turbine scheme near an iconic Ross-shire peak.
In a double whammy for the scheme, the Government’s nature and landscape advisor, Scottish Natural Heritage, came out against the Clach Liath proposal, which was then described as “breathtakingly dreadful” by the boss of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
And in an exclusive Ross-shire Journal italicsonline poll, which is still running, in excess of 90 per cent of respondents believe Munros and Corbetts should be protected from wind farm developments.
SNH is concerned the scheme, being worked up by Coriolis Energy, a development partner of Falck Renewables, would adversely affect views of Ben Wyvis.
SNH was responding to the Highland Council’s consultation on a planning application for the 17-turbine development to the east of Meall na Speireig near Evanton.
It warns access tracks for the wind farm could affect an area designated for broad-leaf semi-natural woodland at Allt nan Caorach.
Steve North, SNH operations manager, said: “We have been speaking to the developer about this proposal for the past 18 months and provided pre-application advice, as well as advice on what the environmental impact assessment would need to cover.
“Our advice is that there would be quite serious adverse impacts on views of Ben Wyvis. The mountain is a dominant landmark feature of Easter Ross and the Inner Moray Firth, visible over an extensive area to a significant number of people who are living, working or visiting the area.
“The impact would be particularly noticeable along the Inner Moray Firth tourist route, where the views of Ben Wyvis from the A862 would be affected. There are also existing wind farms on either side of the proposed development, which raises issues about cumulative impacts. On balance we don’t think these impacts could be reasonably addressed.”
David Gibson, chief officer of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, renewed appeals for an overview of Scottish Government spatial policy on development to ensure wild mountain landscapes are not “industrialised”. In a letter published in today’s Ross-shire Journal he praises SNH for its stance over what he describes as a “breathtakingly dreadful” application.
While he says it is “alarming” such an “environmentally unfriendly” proposal should be put forward, he warns that “the gamble may still pay off” because Scotland lacks a policy stopping developers lodging plans that would “industrialise the best of our remaining wild mountain landscapes”.
Harry Malyon from Coriolis Energy said: “We are naturally disappointed in the initial response from SNH but look forward to sitting down with the agency to discuss their position.
“The site has been specifically chosen to avoid any specially designated areas which protect wildlife or landscape and does not lie on Ben Wyvis. The surrounding area is a thriving energy hub and already has significant development with the industrial estates at Evanton, the pylon line and the boats and rigs on the Firth to the east.
“The wind farm itself would be well screened from most directions and has been planned to sit well in the landscape when viewed from the south.”