Every hill walker in Clackmannan-shire has been dealt a severe kick in the groin by the decision to approve a 13-turbine wind farm at Burnfoot in the Ochil Hills.
Councillor Eddie Carrick and those who voted for this scheme should hang their heads in shame, for they have just contributed to the destruction of the most scenic hill range in central Scotland.
Not only that, this crass decision has opened the floodgates to other applications of a similar nature and the Ochils could well be peppered by turbines in a few years.
Clearly Councillor Carrick and his ilk have no conception whatsoever of the deep affection hill walkers have for this magnificent outdoor resource, which has given me, and many others, hundreds of hours of pleasure.
They have probably never stood on the Ochils summits and gazed out at the stunning panorama to be seen from them. Councillor Carrick says he has given precedence to ‘the needs of the many over the needs of the few.’
He is sadly mistaken if he thinks that only a few people walk these hills. They may not be the Cairngorms or the West Highlands, but they have great character and are visited by thousands each year.
This development is right alongside the historic right of way between Tillicoultry and Blackford, so there is no respect for history in this decision either.
There is a significant need for renewable energy of course, but it has to be sensitive to the violation of scenic landscapes.
There are less intrusive places to site wind farms on land, and the Ramblers association, along with others, is campaigning for turbines to be sited offshore. There also has to be a balance with other forms of renewable energy, including wave and hydro power.
Rennie McOwan, who knows the value of the Ochils, is right to say this decision is shocking, and there is a strong case to be made for taking such sensitive matters away from local level to central government. They are too important.
The development may not be visible from the Hillfoot towns, Stirling Castle and so on, but it will stare every hill walker who ventures on to the Ochils plateau right in the face – a monument to local council idiocy.
Congratulations to those councillors who voted against the scheme, including my own local representative Alastair Campbell. I hope Councillor Carrick has many more sleepless nights once he realises the enormity of the decision he has made.
These turbines will stand for a quarter of a century. Then what happens to them? Are they to be left standing as rusting hulks, once the wind farm company has made its money and has no interest in removing them?
We already have the festering sore of a defunct open-cast mine blighting our landscape near Forestmill, which seems nowhere near restoration. Now we have this.
Its time for walkers and other lovers of the outdoors in Clackmannanshire to show this council just what they think of this decision.
I suggest a protest march along the right of way, taking in Burnfoot Hill, perhaps co-ordinated by the Friends of the Ochils. I suspect it would draw considerable support.
25 May 2007
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