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Ministers say no to plan for giant wind turbines in beauty spot


John Ross

PLANS to build a new wind farm in a Perthshire beauty spot were rejected by the Scottish Executive yesterday because of concerns that it could damage the environment.

Catamount Energy Ltd proposed to install 24 wind turbines, up to 104m (341ft) high, at Abercairny, near Crieff. The 66-megawatt development would produce enough power to supply 40,000 households.

But after a public inquiry held last year, the inquiry reporter concluded the development, which attracted more than 200 objections, would have a significant adverse impact on the local environment.

It was recommended for refusal as it would not help to preserve the natural beauty of the area.

It was also felt that some areas of historical and architectural interest may be affected by the wind farm.

Ministers announced yesterday they supported the reporter’s recommendation. Allan Wilson, the deputy enterprise minister, said: “I am withholding consent in this instance.

“We have a commitment to generate 40 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewables by 2020. And we are making good progress.

“Our aim remains to ensure that we take advantage of Scotland’s extensive renewables potential while safeguarding our natural heritage. In short, the circumstances must be right for all new renewable energy developments.”

The rejection was welcomed yesterday by local politicians who opposed the project.

Mark Ruskell, the Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: “On balance this is the right decision because the Abercairny proposal was in a completely inappropriate location.

“I hope this now clears the way for better wind-farm applications in the area such as Griffin Forest to be given a fair hearing at the next round of public inquiries.

“Ultimately there are limits to the number of wind farms that any landscape can accommodate, so we must support good applications in the right place while rejecting those that are poorly thought through.”

Murdo Fraser, the Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP, spoke against the wind farm at the public inquiry.

He said it would have had a negative impact on the local tourism economy because of the damage it would cause to the scenery.

He said: “It is tremendous news that Abercairny wind farm has been rejected.

“The proposed wind farm was sited in the wrong area, would have had a negative impact on the local economy and would have damaged the surrounding environment.

“It would have been a mistake if this wind-farm proposal was given the green light and the Scottish ministers have seen sense in declining it.”

Mr Fraser said the rejection of the application is another example of the planning system for Scotland’s renewable energy being in chaos and new guidelines are needed.

“I want to see Scotland lead the way in renewable technology, including onshore wind farms. However, without the necessary guidelines and funding from the Scottish Executive, then it is inevitable that unacceptable applications like the one at Abercairny will arise.”

Ian McCall, the campaign and policy co-ordinator with the Ramblers’ Association Scotland, said the decision sends a clear signal to wind-farm developers.

“We now expect most planning applications for 100m-plus turbines in the Scottish hills to be rejected. These industrial monsters will not fit into most Scottish landscapes – their place is well offshore.”

He added: “At long last the government appears ready to constrain the relentless march of giant wind turbines across our world famous landscapes.”

A spokesman for Catamount Energy said: “We are disappointed and we are reviewing the report.”

The company said previously that the wind farm would have no adverse effect on the area and that there would be no significant negative visual effects on settlements, designated landscape and local tourist destinations.