Walkers, cyclists and horse-riders can now access a Highland windfarm track which has been blocked by a padlocked gate for more than a year.
The 17-turbine windfarm at Beinn Tharsuinn, near Ardross, on the Sutherland/Ross-shire border, which generates 29 megawatts of electricity – enough for 16,000 homes – was approved by Highland Council, despite intense local opposition, in August 2004.
It became operational in spring of last year, and was officially opened last August.
But, until very recently, anyone wishing to walk along the access route to the £25million development from the B9176 Struie Road, at Aultnamain, had to climb over a seven-foot gate, making it totally inaccessible to cyclists and horse-riders.
At that time, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCS) pointed out that the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 required land managers to respect the access rights of others.
MCS senior officer David Gibson said this meant they should not obstruct or hinder people from exercising access rights by physically obstructing access.
“Locking a gate is defined as deliberate or unreasonable in this context, without providing an alternative,” said Mr Gibson.
However, windfarm operator ScottishPower has now rectified the situation.
The company’s windfarm operations team manager, Lee Callaghan, said a public access gate, designed in consultation with the local Highland Council access officer and the British Horse Society, had now been installed next to the locked main gate.
“The gate is now in place and, as far as we know, it meets all our obligations.
“Everyone can get in there now, so, hopefully, everyone will be happy,” said Mr Callaghan.
He added that the high locked gate was needed to prevent vehicular access, for security and safety reasons. The turbines and associated buildings are also protected by a CCTV system.
By Sue Restan
9 April 2007
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