A woman who lives on the Dava Moor has said she feels she is a lone voice in the wilderness trying to raise awareness about plans for several wind farms which she claims will spoil the rural beauty of the wild area and be a shock for people when they see them.
She claims that people living in the Forres area and its rural boundaries, who travel through to the Grantown area or to Lochindorb, will be surprised when they witness the construction of so many wind farms in the designated AGLV (Area of Great Landscape Value), should they all receive planning consent from Highland Council and the Scottish Executive.
Jeannie Munro (54) has been campaigning for about a year against the wind farm developments. She is part of the “Save Our Dava” group who have lobbied various bodies, such as Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, Grantown Community Council, Highland Council and MSPs such as Fergus Ewing and David Stewart.
They are protesting against plans to ring the Dava Moor wilderness, and the northern edge of the Cairngorms National Park, with the renewable energy developments. At the moment, one wind farm is operational at Farr, near Tomatin, which is visible from the Dava, with another five planning applications either sitting with Highland Council or seeking opinion for development.
The Scottish Executive are meanwhile expected to approve an application for 29 turbines at Berryburn, on the Altyre Estate, which was approved by Moray Council last year. Two other developments at Paul’s Hill, near Aberlour, and Cairn Uish, near Dallas, have already been constructed, with both being visible from various high points around the Dava.
Mrs Munro, fellow campaigner Roy Hewett and a small campaign group have been working hard to bring attention to the plans which they claim will rob the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park of its rugged beauty, destroying some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes. When they tell local people about the impact the developments will have, they are met with disbelief.
“These wind farm companies are just being allowed to rape the Dava, yet many people seem unaware of what is going on and what it will mean,” said Mrs Munro.
“There aren’t many of us who live here, but everyone will be able to see the wind farms when they are driving through. They will also be visible from around the Dava and areas such as Dunphail and Auldearn. Some of the turbines in one development are well over 425 feet high.”
Highlands MSP Fergus Ewing said that he was aware of the issue and was not in favour of covering the Dava with turbines, and was doing his best to raise awareness in government.
“I am taking this issue up with the Minister for the matter,” he said.
“I do believe that the case for one method of depicting turbines is strong, and that the Dava Moor should not be covered with wind farms.”
Companies seeking opinion for development with Highland Council currently include Renewable Energy Systems at Cairn Dhuie, near Ferness; Infinergy at Tom na Clach, near Drynachan; North British Windpower at Corriegarth at Gorthleck, with applications submitted at Dunmaglass, near Strathnairn, by Renewable Energy Systems, and at Glenkirk, Tomatin, by Eurus Energy UK Ltd.
Between them the turbines are likely to total around 126, with the existing developments at Cairn Uish and Paul’s Hill, and the Berryburn development bringing the amount in the wider local area to nearer the 200 mark.
“I have spoken out strongly against this, and will be lobbying behind the scenes,” said Mr Ewing.
“Many decisions have been taken, but the campaign against the blanket coverage of the Dava continues.”
Mrs Munro said that she was extremely concerned about the effect so many turbines would have on existing wildlife and tourism, with views from Lochindorb, a popular spot among locals and bird-watchers, likely to be spoilt.
“Looking out from the foothills, the skyline along the top of the ridges would be dominated by wind farms at Tom nan Clach, Glenkirck, Cairn Dhuie and Berryburn,” she said.
“Generations of my family have lived in the Dava and I have lived here all my life. I’m not just going to stand by and let it happen.”
She added that from the highest peaks, the developments at Cairn Uish and Paul’s Hill could already by seen, and even the Novar development at Evanton is visible on a clear day.
“Until they go up no-one is going to realise the impact,” she added.
“From The Knock of Braemoray you will be able to see every single one. People living around Darnaway will also be able to see a lot of them too.”
For comparison purposes, she claims that the Glens of Foudland wind farm stands at 250 feet, whereas developments at Glen Kirk and Tom na Clach are going to be 370 and 425 feet respectively.
Meanwhile, a Scottish Natural Heritage spokesman said they would take a balanced view of the cumulative effect of wind farm development.
He explained that the SNH role in planned renewables developments was as statutory advisor to advise planning authorities on potential natural heritage impacts, unlike elected councillors who could approve or reject planning applications.
“SNH has made it clear that we believe the cumulative impact of potential developments around Dava Moor is an issue to be considered by developers and the planning authorities,” he said.
“SNH’s advice is given from a national perspective, and we believe the views of communities are also important considerations for future planning decisions.
“Renewable energy development can also contribute to rural employment, and SNH supports renewable proposals where they can be achieved without a significant impact on the natural heritage.”
In a letter to MSP Fergus Ewing just last month, Andrew Thin, chairman of SNH, said that the issue of the cumulative impact on the Dava from wind farm development would be a key issue in considering any formal proposals.
By Tanya McLaren
30 May 2007
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