Scottish tourism chiefs have finally admitted wind farms could drive away visitors.
In a move that’s sure to put them on a collision course with the Scottish Government, VisitScotland has opposed a development near Lockerbie on the grounds it “could have a detrimental effect” on holidaymakers.
It is highly unusual for the taxpayer-funded agency to step in directly to challenge a wind farm application.
The intervention, which comes only days after Alex Salmond claimed wind farms “enhance our appeal as a country”, heaps more pressure on the SNP to order a moratorium on further development.
Critics last night described it as a significant development. Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s energy and tourism committee, said: “If wind farms will damage tourism in one area of Scotland, this is surely the case the country over.
“This is a message communities reliant on the tourist trade have been trying to get through to the Scottish Government for years.”
A Sunday Post probe recently revealed there are 131 onshore wind farms in Scotland.
Another 304 are under construction, have received planning consent or are going through the planning process.
If those in the planning stage are developed, it could result in more than 5,000 turbines across the country.
Opponents have warned their unrelenting spread is damaging Scotland’s natural beauty and threatening the £11 billion-a-year tourism trade.
However VisitScotland has repeatedly said it is not against the principle of wind farm development.
In April it even released a survey which concluded four out of five tourists visiting Scotland do not see wind farms as a problem.
However the agency’s response to a controversial 10-turbine bid a Minnygap, Lockerbie appears to be at odds with that view.
It is contained in a Dumfries and Galloway Council planning committee report which will go before councillors on Thursday.
The report states that the “proposed development appears to be visible from the Southern Upland Way which is an important part of the tourism offering in the area.
“There have been a number of applications for wind farm developments along the route of the walk. Should all of these be granted there could be a cumulative detrimental effect on walkers.”
David Gibson, of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “This intervention is long overdue.
“I hope the Scottish Government sit up and take notice and orders a moratorium on wind farm developments.”
Angela Kelly, of the anti-windfarm group Country Guardian, added: “The whole spirit of Scotland has been destroyed by wind farms.
“I hope this move will lead to more objections in future. It is better late than never.”
A VisitScotland spokesman said it understands and supports the drive for renewable energy.
But he added: “When consulted as part of the formal planning process, VisitScotland recommends that tourism concerns are taken into account when granting planning permission, and encourages sensitive siting of developments at all times.
“Ultimately, it is for the local planning authority or Scottish ministers to make the final decision as to whether or not a development proposal is approved.”
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