Planners were yesterday accused of “sleepwalking” to disaster after approving controversial plans for a major wind-farm development in the Ochil Hills, one of Scotland’s most popular hill-walking destinations.
Clackmannanshire Council’s planning authority, the regulatory committee, gave the go-ahead – on the casting vote of the committee chairman – for a 13-turbine wind farm at Burnfoot Hill, below Ben Cleuch, the highest point in the Ochil range.
The Ramblers Association Scotland and the local environment group, Friends of the Ochils, condemned the decision and warned that the development, combined with four proposed similar schemes in neighbouring Perth and Kinross, could destroy one of the country’s most precious landscapes.
The results from a series of public inquiries into the four other developments are still awaited by Perth and Kinross Council.
The proposals are a 14-turbine scheme at Little Law, ten turbines at Snowgoat Glen, 14 at Mellock Hill, and 12 at Lochelbank.
The Ramblers Association condemned the decision, which was supported by all five Labour councillors, as an “outrage”.
Cameron McNeish, the association’s vice-president, said: “These Labour councillors have shown a contemptuous disregard for the wildness and beauty of the Scottish hills.
“To ignore the advice of their own landscape advisers, Scottish Natural Heritage and the large number of individuals and interest groups who opposed this development suggests very little understanding of the issues at stake in the development of renewable energy.”
Stuart Dean, the vice-chairman of the Friends of the Ochils, claimed: “We could be sleepwalking to a disaster in the Ochils. One approved wind farm is one too many, but three, four or more would spell the end of a beautiful range of hills
The new wind farm will be built within an area designated in the council’s own local plan as the “Ochil Hills area of great landscape value”.
The 102m turbines will be capable of producing enough electricity to meet the needs of approximately 14,800 houses.
Stephen Bell, the council’s head of development services, told the committee:
“On balance, the significance of the visual impact of the wind farm is not considered to be sufficiently detrimental to justify withholding consent.
Convener Eddie Carrick said: “I have been kept awake for the last few nights by thoughts of this development. This is a huge step and ultimately I feel we have made the correct decision.”
By Frank Urquhart
29 March 2007
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