A meeting held in Grantown-on-Spey last week organised by the “Save Our Dava” group, who are protesting against plans to site five windfarms on the northern edge of the Dava Moor, has been heralded as a success.
Around 150 people, including some who had travelled from Forres, attended a meeting at the Ben Mhor Hotel in Grantown last Thursday afternoon. This followed a protest meeting which was held at Lochindorb Castle beforehand.
Among those attending were Euro MP Struan Stevenson, and leading environmentalists: Cameron McNeish who is president of the Ramblers Association, Roy Dennis former president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Chris Townsend, president of the Scottish Mountaineering Council.
The Save Our Dava group which has been spearheaded by locals including Jeannie Munro who lives on the Dava and local man Roy Dennis was formed about two years ago in response to a raft of interest shown by windfarm companies who wanted to site operations on the northern edge of the moor.
Mr Dennis said the aim of the meeting was to try and inform people about what could happen and he was delighted that individuals and members of groups, such as the Grantown Community Council turned up to inform themselves.
“It is surprising how many people were not aware of the proposals,” he said. “We were pleased that we had such a favourable response.”
The group have been voicing opposition to proposals to site more than 130 giant turbines, each around 425-feet high, on the remote wilderness of the moor at proposed developments at Berryburn, Cairn Duhie, Glenkirk, Dunearn and Tom nan Clach.
Mr Dennis said the central point of Lochindorb, between the Spey and Findhorn rivers, is famed for endangered species including golden eagles, capercaillies and larks.
Mr Stevenson said he shared the concerns and called the plans “environmental vandalism on a grand scale” which would spoil one of the most beautiful, remote Scottish wilderness areas.
“To allow the wanton destruction of the Scottish countryside in this way for the limited benefit of wind power and the enrichment of a handful of electricity companies and landowners is quite unacceptable,” he said.
“Cumulatively, the five wind farms will amount to one of the largest-scale wind power projects in Scotland if not Europe.
“Dava Moor is one of the great wilderness areas of Scotland, written about lyrically by famous authors such as Maurice Walsh. It is part of our rich landscape and cultural heritage, with Lochindorb Castle, a rare island fortress dating back to the 13th century, perched on an island in the middle of the loch.”
Mr Stevenson has written to environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, asking him to launch a full investigation into several clear breaches of EU directives.
Three planning applications are pending with Highland Council with another two companies gauging opinion and another four have already shown interest about siting wind turbines on the moor.
The current application would see around more than thirty miles of roads built across the moor to service the turbines, together with many miles of giant pylons to take the power to the national grid.
More than 1000 tonnes of concrete will be needed to provide a foundation for each of the 130 turbines, ripping up blanket bog as they go.
“The cumulative impact of these five wind farms on this designated area of great landscape value will be appalling,” said Mr Stevenson.
He said the area is covered by deep blanket bog with peat up to four metres deep, much of which is over 2,000 years old.
The wind farms will require massive excavation of the sensitive area, with consequent disturbance to the fragile ecosystem and hydrology, leading to potentially disastrous impacts on the lower regions of the Findhorn river.
“No one knows the consequences of excavating a four-metre-deep (13ft) blanket peat bog which has taken thousands of years to form,” he added. “The fragile hydrology of the whole Dava basin is going to be disturbed. You could have flooding in the whole community.”
He urged Highland council to “put on hold” further consideration of the schemes until the commission decided if there was a case to answer.
“The tourists, hill-walkers and ramblers who come to Dava Moor from around the world bringing vital income to this remote part of the Highlands, will stop coming once the landscape has become a forest of steel and the moor has been dissected with concrete,” he added.
“Scotland and indeed Europe is fortunate to have such places of unsurpassed beauty. We surely cannot allow this virgin wilderness to be raped and vandalised.”
Ray Hunter, of Renewable Energy Systems, one of the five firms hoping to establish a local scheme, told a daily newspaper that the likelihood was that only those windfarms that meet very exact planning criteria would go ahead.
One of the planning applications for the Berry Burn windfarm which will be constructed in Moray is one of two currently awaiting approval with the Scottish Executive.
Meantime, Mr Dennis said that they felt it was difficult to rely on objections to developments from departments such as Scottish Natural Heritage and SEPA.
“They often bluster and huff and puff at the start,” he said. “But when it comes to it, they often let these things go through. We are hoping they will look carefully at these plans.”
By Tanya McLaren
29 August 2007
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