The prospect of giant turbines in one of the last great Highland wildernesses without a windfarm was condemned yesterday by a leading conservationist and the local planning chief.
The Assynt Foundation will host a public meeting tonight to spell out its proposals for a “local-scale development” – thought to be either a three or six-turbine scheme – within sight of the iconic Suilven and Canisp mountains near Lochinver, Sutherland.
It is understood they would be sited on Druim Suardalain ridge, directly above Glen Canisp Lodge.
Acknowledging it would prove controversial, the foundation did not want to reveal details too widely at this early stage “to avoid people from outside the community being present in what’s really a community meeting”. Project officer Adam Pellant revealed, however, that there was optimism the scheme could be connected to the national grid as a source of local income.
“Later in the proceedings, people from all over the world will have plenty of opportunity to raise any objections they have, or be involved in the process,” he said.
The John Muir Trust, which helped finance the 1,000-strong Assynt community’s £2.9million acquisition of the Glencanisp and Drumrunie estates in 2005, has been informed with Scottish Natural Heritage, which confirmed it was advising the foundation.
Mountaineer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish said: “I’d be very disappointed if the John Muir Trust sat back and allowed this to happen.
“I would expect them to fight this tooth and nail to try to stop any windfarm in this area.
“This could well set a precedent for others and we could end up with the finest part of Britain despoiled by these spinning monsters.
“I’m very surprised the Assynt crofters are even considering this. They must have been offered a lot of money.
“There is so much material available now confirming that onshore windfarms don’t actually help and that is not the area for renewable development, it is too important to Scotland in terms of tourism.”
Sutherland north-west councillor and area planning chairman Francis Keith said: “It would be nice to market northwest Sutherland as the only windfarm-free part of the Highlands, but it looks like that might not be.
“On balance, I can’t stand windfarms. I think they’re a scam forced upon us by the Scottish Executive and it does nothing to enhance the beauty of the Highlands. Some, like (Beinn) Tharsuinn are pretty unobtrusive, but there are others which are absolutely hideous. I find it regrettable that they can’t find other ways of making money.”
Tonight’s public meeting is in Lochinver Village Hall, starting at 7.30pm.
By Iain Ramage
28 March 2007
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