There could be “potentially catastrophic effects” on both the local tourism industry and the roads network if the Griffin Forest and Calliacher windfarms get the go-ahead, according to Mid-Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Murdo Fraser.
He explained that the proposed Griffin Forest development would consist of 68 turbines, almost all with a maximum height from base to blade tip of 124 metres.
They would be built to the east of the A826, between Aberfeldy and Trochry, covering a total area around the size of Perth.
The Calliachar development would consist of 27 turbines, with a maximum height of 100 metres, and would be built to the west of the A826, between Aberfeldy, Kenmore and Amulree, covering around 624 hectares.
“The tourism industry throughout Perthshire accounts for about 15% of all employment in the area. When tourism comprises such a large proportion of employment, it can be deemed as not only very important but essential,” stated Mr Fraser.
“In comparison, only 8.8% of Scotland’s workforce is employed in tourism. Very crudely, this shows that the tourism industry in Perthshire is around double the size of the Scottish average.
“It reiterates how important tourism is to the area. In economic terms, the hospitality sector is vitally important to the Perthshire area as it generates over £30 million for the local economy and employs over 4000 people across a variety of businesses.”
VisitScotland estimated that 79 per cent of all UK visitors that came to Perthshire for a holiday planned to return in the future.
“That is not a surprising statistic when you consider the unspoilt views of lochs and glens that are right here on our doorstep ““ scenery that people come half-way round the world to view.
“People come to this area for an experience that most of Scotland ““ and indeed most of the world ““ cannot offer. Perthshire, as a whole remains, one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Scotland.
“However, this would not remain so, and the proportion of UK visitors who come to Perthshire that would like to come again would be much less than 79% if a metal and concrete forest of wind turbines were to be built on this area’s beautiful unspoilt scenery.
“Whilst the contractors are to be commended for reducing the proposed total number of turbines from 128 in their original applications ““ 82 on Griffin Forest and 46 on Calliachar ““ to a total of 95 in their amended applications, 68 on Griffin Forest and 27 on Calliachar, this is still 95 too many on our rural landscape.”
When I&H Brown placed their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on public display, Perth and Kinross Council had received 783 letters of comment up to October 2005, of which only one was in support.
GreenPower’s EIS yielded 1060 letters of comment over this period, of which only 13 were in support.
“The VisitScotland survey has shown that the appearance of wind farms are regarded as an eyesore which have a negative effect on tourists.
“Coupled with the fact that these wind farms are proposed to be built on some of the most outstanding scenery in Scotland, they can only have a detrimental effect on the local tourist trade that this area so heavily depends on.”
Mr Fraser also highlighted the impact the construction of the wind farms would have on the local roads network. For the duration of construction, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) containing materials would be required to travel north along the A9 from Perth, then turn left onto the A822 at Dunkeld.
“Whilst I commend the developers for promising to improve the A822 to make it a more suitable road for HGVs by means of increased passing places and more general road improvements, there remain other important issues that need to be addressed.
“The A9 is the main arterial road through Highland Perthshire and indeed throughout the Highlands. Between the years of 2000 and 2004 inclusive, 1053 people were injured as the result of accidents on this road, and 82 were killed.
“These are chilling statistics and are ones which give the A9 its title as Scotland’s deadliest road, with the highest number of fatalities of any road in Scotland for this period.”
The Griffin Wind Farm Construction Traffic Review shows that for this development, GreenPower would need to make a total of around 54,500 journeys to and from the site during the 18 months of construction, including at least 476 abnormal loads, of which some would be at least 47 metres long.
These journeys would almost entirely include travelling on the A9 between Perth and the A822 junction at Dunkeld. It says that on the busiest day, 59 HGVs would be required to enter and then leave the construction site.
The Traffic Impact Considerations document by SIAS transport planners for the Calliachar wind farm explained that I&H Brown would require, on average, 115 vehicles to enter or leave the site each working weekday for the seven month development.
That would include around 47 HGVs arriving and then leaving the construction site each day.
Based on a five-day working week, that would result in a total of 24,150 vehicles entering and leaving the construction site, including 81 abnormal loads of at least 41 metres.
Mr Fraser concluded: “I have set out why I believe the proposed windfarms should not go ahead.
“I commend both developers for their consultations, time, money and effort in reducing the number of turbines they propose to build and making it more suitable for Perthshire.
“However, both developments will have a detrimental effect on the area, including potentially catastrophic effects on both the local tourism industry and roads network. They must be rejected.”
The inquiry continues.
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