A council by-election candidate yesterday called on the Scottish Government to clarify its stance on wind farms in Highland Perthshire.
Conservative hopeful Graham Rees made his call after planning approval was given at Holyrood last week for a 68-turbine Griffin wind farm near Aberfeldy following an extensive public enquiry.
The application, which will create Scotland’s third largest onshore wind farm in the hills between Aberfeldy and Strathbraan, was opposed by Perth and Kinross Council and local campaigners.
Mr Rees, who is bidding to win the seat for the council ward made vacant by the sudden death of ex-member Eleanor Howie, said he was against the development on environmental grounds.
“Following the announcement on Thursday, I met Murdo Fraser MSP and Highland ward councillor Ian Campbell to discuss the implications for the area of this decision by SNP Ministers,” he said.
“Many local people have spoken to me since then to express their concerns. I agree with the John Muir Trust that this huge wind farm was totally inappropriate for the area and likely to damage the tourism industry.
“In addition, many local residents have real concerns about the impact on local roads from the construction traffic.
“I hope that we will get a clear statement from Ministers that Griffin is the only wind farm that will be built here.
“Over the years this area has contributed more than its fair share towards our energy needs, with huge hydro-electric schemes supplying electricity across the UK.
“We had done our bit even before this unwanted wind farm was approved.”
The SNP’s sustainable growth secretary John Swinney said the go-ahead for Griffin had brought a period of “great uncertainty for the Strathbraan area” to an end.
“This decision raises a number of issues about access and transportation to the site about which there needs to be firm assurances,” he said.
Mr Swinney’s colleague Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said residents concerns were of paramount importance.
“I am aware of the strength of feelings and concerns about this development,” he insisted.
“In the course of the debate about Griffin, many issues and questions have been raised, particularly to do with access to the site and with the water supply.
“In the approval I note that there are a number of conditions attached to this development and these must be rigorously applied.
“I will now be writing to the Energy Minister Jim Mather to seek these assurances and insist that community concerns are properly taken into account.
“I also want to ensure that the community is fully consulted at each stage.”
Three other candidates are standing at the Highland by-election on February 21. They are Anne Chatt (Scottish Labour), Kate Howie (SNP) and Andrew Kenton (Scottish Lib Dems).
By Andrew Welsh
5 February 2008
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