The boundary of the Cairngorms National Park is becoming a magnet for wind farm developments, destroying some of Scotland’s most spectacular rugged landscapes, according to campaigners.
They claim as many as nine wind farms could be constructed within a short distance on one another, on the northern edge of the park, if current plans come to fruition.
There are already major wind farms at Farr and Paul’s Hill by Ballindalloch and there are plans in the pipeline for similar large-scale developments at Carn Duhie by Dava Moor; Glenkirk by Tomatin; Berryburn by Dunphail; Tom nan Clach near Drynachan, and Dunmaglass in the Mondhliaths.
In addition, there are applications for anenometers, which are used to measure wind speed and often act as precursors to wind farm proposals, on land owned by Dunachton Estate, near Kincraig, and at Balavil Estate, Kingussie.
Prompting the proliferation on the boundary is the Cairngorm National Park’s policy to reject any plans for major renewable projects such as wind farms within its boundaries, although their stance has yet to be challenged.
Campaigner Jeannie Munro (54) is leading the drive to “Save our Dava” and protect historic Lochindorb, whose loch boasts a castle which was once home to the infamous Wolf of Badenoch.
She and other Dava residents are battling plans for a wind farm by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) about nine miles north of Grantown, in two two-mile arcs around Cairn Duhie. The overall height of the 15 turbines from blade to tip could be 100 metres.
Ms Munro said: “Looking out from the foothills of Lochindorb, the skyline along the top of the ridges would be dominated by wind farms at Tom nan Clach, Glenkirk, Cairn Duhie, Berryburn and Paul’s Hill.”
As well as the 28 tubines opened by Fred Olsen, of shipping giant fame, last May at Paul’s Hill, a further 126 turbines are proposed in the four developments.
“Money-grabbing developers are raping our most cherished landscapes and this is only the start,” said Ms Munro.
“Generations of my family have lived in the Dava and I cannot just sit by and watch our greatest asset be destroyed for an unreliable and exceeding expensive source of power. Wildlife, peat bogs, the tranquility will be decimiated.”
There are resident populations of capercaillie in the woodland by Loch Kirkcaldy, which forms part of the proposed site, and Auchindare Woods just half-a-mile away, according to Ms Munro. Golden eagles and wildcats are found in nearby Glenkirk.
Fellow Dava campaigner Roy Hewett said: “The Scottish Executive are sacrificing our landscapes for political expediency to meet renewable commitments which have not been thought through properly.
“I feel that we are being conned and we are getting no help from the very people who should be assisting us ““ Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB and Historic Scotland.
“We are getting nowhere with these agencies who are suppose to be the guardians of Scottish heritage.”
RES have stated that a formal planning application could be submitted to Highland Council in the summer and come on-line in 2010.
Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments are opposing the Glenkirk and other similar proposals on the nothern boundary of the national park.
The park authority has already registered an objection on the grounds of “adverse visual impact” on the national park; potential impact on the economy and the possible precedent the development would create for further wind farms being located close to the park’s boundary.
Spokesman for the objectors, Pat Well, said: “Opposition is increasing to the application by multi-national developer Eurus Energy UK Ltd to build their large wind farm at Glekirk ““ the high moors south east of Tomatin and overlooking Strathspey and the Dava. If approved this power station will dominate the view on the northern boundary of the Cairngorms National Park.
“More people are beginning to question the ‘green credentials’ of these large developments as the massive quantities of ancient peat dug out for roads and turbine foundations dries out to release tonnes of climate-changing carbonb dioxide and methane.
“The thousands of lorry journeys made during construction add to the harmful emissions. A wind farm proposal on the edge of the Lake District National Park was recently refused. Objectors calculated that it would take 16 years for the turbines to redeem the carbon dioxide generated during construction.”
Mrs Wells continued: “Local opposition to another windfarm in the Tomatin area is based on a variety of reasons, not least of which is the unexpected noise from the Farr windfarm ““ noise which disturbs a significant number of residents.
“Many people feel that the negative impacts from one wind farm in the area is enough. The cumulative effect of these giant power stations situated on unspoilt Highland skylines in unacceptable and must be recognised as such.
“The visual impact of these hill-top turbines visibile from homes, tourism businesses and beauty spots and to the many millions of travellers using the A9 and other roads in Strathdearn, Strathspey, Dava and Lochindorb areas is of serious concern.
“In addition, a considerable number of people are worried about the economic effects on tourism businesses, fishing and sporting interests and property values.”
Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments said they have serious concerns over the consultation process for developments for wind farms being proposed for the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park. “Most people live busy lives and may be unaware of developments until the bulldozers begin to roll by which time it is too late,” said Mrs Wells.
Local MSP Fergus Ewing believes that the Scottish Executive has acted irresponsibly in paving the way for so much wind farm development.
He said: “In 2003 I met with Scottish Executive Minister Lewis MacDonald to call for a tighter policy on wind energy with restrictions as to where they can be sited taking account of the scenic value of the landscape and its impact on tourism.
“Secondly, I called for the Executive to ensure that where wind farms are permitted that the wider community benefits not just the wind companies and landowners. Both of these pleas were rejected by the Labour-Liberal Executive as they feared that any restrictions would drive wind farm development down south to England and Wales. These fears, I believe, were spurious.
“The SNP believes that many other forms of renewable energy are the future ““ not unconstrained wind farms ““ such as tidal power, wave power, solar energy, geothermal heat sources and hydrogen cells.
“These are technologies of the future and in some cases the present. Wind farms have, however, a very heavy environmental footprint not only blotting the landscape in places such as Dava which has huge beauty and Lochindorb which is of considerable historic interest but also in the release of substantial quantities of methane from peat landscapes such as that proposed by the Eurus wind farm at Glenkirk.
“The Scottish Executive policy seems to be based on the Martini advert: any time, any place, anywhere.
“All in all, I believe that the current wind farm free for all policy is flawed and I hope that at a new Scottish Executive led by my own party from May will call a halt to this and introduce a balanced policy with a location strategy and community benefit.”
Cameron McNeish, TV broadcaster and president of the Ramblers’ Association (Scotland), has been a leading critic on the scale of wind farm development.
Mr McNeish, who lives in Newtonmore, said: It looks as the Cairngorms National Park could become an island surrounded by industrial wind factories, plus of course, their associated grid of power lines.
“If a person can see the ugliness of these windpower industrial estates from the Cairngorms themselves, and you can at the moment, then it devalues the very purpose of a national park.
“The park authority once stated it would object to developments that you could see from within the park. That would be very encouraging. Currently there are proposals to erect two anemometry masts on Balavil Estate by Kingussie, the first stage towards a windfarm, and these will be erected mere yards from the national park boundary.
“If the council planning authorities allow this to happen they will open the floodgates for others to follow and the boundary of our national park could soon be marked out by anemometry masts and giant turbines.
“Renewable energy is important to Scotland, but onshore wind farms will inevitably cause more harm than good when tourists decide to go elsewhere and the landscape of Scotland is marred for the foreseeable future.
“The only sensible way forward is for a complete moratorium on all onshore large scale windfarm developments in Scotland.”
Planning applications for the wind farms will be determined by Highland Council because they fall outside of the national park area; however, the authority will be a consulted on the developments.
A spokeswoman: “The park authority is opposed to large-scale commercial windfarms in or close to the park, however, we would be supportive of small-scale community renewable energy projects.
“To date, the CNPA has objected to a number of windfarm applications on the periphery of the park and of particular concern is the cumulative impact of numerous windfarm proposals just outside the boundaries of the park.
“Although wind farms provide green energy they are considered inappropriate in or close to the Cairngorms National Park on the grounds of visual impact, the likely effect on protected species, the potential adverse effect on the local economy from a tourism perspective and on the landscape and people’s enjoyment of an area of national and international beauty.”
Sandy Park, Highland Council’s chairman of planning, development, Europe and tourism, said: “There is currently much speculation and a number of anenometers have been erected but we are yet to see many applications for this area bordering the north of Cairngorms National Park.
“We have spent a long time on drawing up a strategy on sites for wind farms in the Highlands and the wind farms will be determined in the context of these policies. They will be considered on their merit as they come in but we will take into account the wider picture. There is no doubt that over-development of wind farms would be a material planning consideration.”
A planning application for the erection of two 50-metre anemometry masts on land four kilometres north-west of Meall A’Chocaire, at Balavil Estate, near Kingussie will be considered by Highland Council on Monday.
The proposal has been submitted by energy company NPower Renewables, and planners are recommending approval by members of Highland Council’s Badenoch and Strathspey area committee sitting in Kingussie. If approved, the masts will be up for a maximum of 24 months from the date of installation.
Both sites lie approximately 1.7 kilometres to the north of the mountain ridge which forms the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park to the north of Kingussie.
By Gavin Musgrove
Published: 17 January, 2007
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