Proposals for giant wind turbines in the remotest part of the Highlands have concerned the charity which helped the local community secure a £2.9million land buyout.
The John Muir Trust yesterday conceded there was a “tricky” balancing act between preserving a unique environment and green energy develop- ment to aid a local economy.
The organisation which donated a £50,000 lump sum to the Assynt Foundation and pledged a further £75,000 for running costs of its two estates in Sutherland, also clinched a further £550,000 of private finance to seal the 2005 buyout.
But talk of erecting up to six giant turbines within view of the iconic Canisp and Suilven mountains and close to a Special Protection Area (SPA) with rare species has raised eyebrows.
Director Nigel Hawkins said: “We’re opposed to large-scale wind turbine developments on or near to the finest areas of wild land.
“Our main concern about the proposal is the impact on the wild landscape of Assynt with the spectacular mountains, particularly Suilven.”
The trust’s advice to the foundation has been to consider a smaller-scale scheme that would create community benefit, generating power sufficient for the community’s needs and to locate it “where it would have the least impact on the Assynt landscape.” The trust will meet foundation representatives next Monday to discuss things further. Speaking yesterday after consultation sessions which attracted around 100 people, project officer Adam Pellant argued that onshore wind was a tried and tested technology.
He said: “The community are happy to continue to the next stage of proceedings, but it’s still at an early stage.
“We’ll be looking towards an environmental impact assessment next, which will cover a whole manner of different things including bird studies for a full year and landscape studies.”
Peter Gordon, a conservation planner with RSPB Scotland, said: “We were consulted at the scoping stage where we said there are a number of rare birds in the area and the Assynt Lochs SPA isn’t that far away.
“So we’d expect to see a good level of birds surveyed to help us decide whether there was a bird issue.
“There is nothing to say immediately there is bound to be a problem. We are waiting to get consulted on the information which will be in the environmental statement.”
By Iain Ramage
30 March 2007
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