Two of Perthshire’s most scenic areas would be “despoiled” if developers get the green light for two massive wind farm projects, a local protest group claimed yesterday.
Jill Wilson, chairman of the Amulree and Strathbraan Windfarm Action Group (ASWAG), was speaking on the eve of a public inquiry into two highly contentious windfarm planning bids ““ one near Dunkeld, the other near Aberfeldy.
Both have attracted an avalanche of objections ““ an unprecedented 1060 letters, with only 13 in favour, were received by council planners regarding a proposal by Green Power to erect 68 turbines at Griffin Forest, almost two miles north-west of Dunkeld.
And 783 submissions were received, with just one in support, following plans lodged by I&H Brown Ltd. for 27 turbines at Calliacher, three miles south of Aberfeldy.
As both developments will produce more than 50 megawatts of electricity, they will be decided by the Scottish Executive.
The conjoined public inquiry, to be chaired by Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporter Mr David Russell, will open at 10am this morning in Amulree Village Hall.
One of the first items on the agenda will be the timetabling of the dozens of witnesses but it emerged yesterday that the marathon public inquiry is likely to last much longer than the anticipated three weeks and could spill over into October.
The ASWAG chairman said: “If this gets the go-ahead, it will be the biggest-ever industrial development that Perthshire has seen.
“The Griffin plans alone will cover an area larger than Perth and, between the two sites, 44 kilometres of new roads will be constructed over the hills.
“There is widespread concern at the impact the two proposed windfarms will have on the area ““ I don’t believe anyone in the world would fail to be impressed with the scenic beauty of the two sites.”
ASWAG are also concerned at the massive impact the projects would have on local roads not designed to carry such huge amounts of traffic.
Jill said that Greenpower had estimated there could be around 61,000 vehicle movements during the construction period of their windfarm.
“Site traffic will come off the A9, one of the most dangerous roads in Scotland, at Dunkeld, onto the A822 and then onto the A826 Perthshire tourist route to Aberfeldy.
“It will then have to cross the A9 again as it goes south.
“It is estimated that the construction period for the two developments will be 18-23 months ““ that will be almost two years of sheer hell for locals if this industrial development gets the go-ahead.”
Concerns over the roads impact were also voiced yesterday by North Tayside MSP John Swinney.
He said: “I am glad that a public inquiry is taking place because the proposed windfarms will have an enormous impact on the landscape should they get the green light.
“There are a number of major problems with these applications, not least of which are the impact on the natural scenic environment of the area and the inevitable disruption to the roads network during the construction period.
“I have seen no credible evidence that the roads infrastructure can accommodate such major developments.”
Mr Swinney added: “I hope these issues will be thoroughly examined at the public inquiry to ensure that my constituents, who are deeply concerned over the windfarms, feel that a fair, thorough and comprehensive analysis has been undertaken.”
At a special development control committee meeting last October, Perth and Kinross councillors rejected both applications, triggering the public inquiry.
Ian Sleith, the council’s head of development standards, had recommended approval of the Griffin scheme, subject to various conditions, while urging councillors to oppose the smaller Calliacher project.
Green Power’s proposals have been amended since they were first submitted in 2004, with the present 68, three-bladed turbines a reduction from the original 82. The height of a number of the turbines have also been scaled down, but the tallest will still be 124 metres.
The £42.5 million scheme would create around 90 jobs, with 12 full-time operating staff, and would generate up to 204 megawatts of electricity ““ enough to power up to 176,000 homes ““ and reduce CO2 emissions by 566,000 tonnes per year.
The Calliacher scheme originally proposed 46 turbines but that had been cut to 27. The three- bladed turbines would each have a hub height of 59 metres and a blade diameter of 82 metres, each capable of a 2.3 megawatt output.
Mr Sleith said that notwithstanding the reduced size of that development, it still raised “significant adverse landscape and visual impact issues.”
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