There are just a couple of days left to stop Loch Laggan and the surrounding Monarch of the Glen country from being blighted by wind and wave energy schemes, according to campaigners.
Loch Laggan, Loch Ericht and the Monadhliath uplands have been earmarked as potential future sites for renewable projects.
But they have been overlooked by many residents, who could be angered by the proposals because they are included in Highland Council’s West Highland and Islands Local Plan (WHILP).
The anomaly has come about because the beauty spots – which featured widely in the BBC’s hit comedy drama ‘Monarch of Glen’ – fall just outside of the Cairngorms National Park’s boundary.
They form part of the council’s administrative area of Badenoch and Strathspey, but the consultation on the plans took place with inhabitants in neighbouring Lochaber – whose main towns are Fort William and Mallaig – more than an hour’s drive away from the two lochs and surrounding peaks.
TV broadcaster and author Cameron McNeish, who stumbled upon the proposals, is incensed and believes that many people will share his concern – but are unaware of the threat.
No-one in Badenoch and Strathspey would have considered looking at the council’s blueprint for development in the Lochaber region, he said.
“I find it incomprehensible that any sane-minded person could even suggest desecrating the incredibly beautiful shores of Loch Laggan with a wind farm,” said Mr McNeish.
“What planet do these people live on – have they no sense of beauty in its most natural form? Or are they being manipulated by a London-centric government that has little care what happens outside the glass ceiling of their metropolis?
“It is surely time for the SNP Government in Edinburgh to call a moratorium on on-shore wind farms and put together a sensible strategy for renewable energy development that takes into account the world renowned landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.”
He added there was still time for residents to register their objections to the WHILP with Highland Council. The deadline for responses to the council is this Friday (March 14).
The WHILP will replace the Skye and Lochalsh Local Plan, the Lochaber Local Plan and a small part of the Badenoch and Strathspey Local Plan, west of Kinlochlaggan.
The document covers development in the area up until 2014, but it also includes longer-term visions for the West Highlands well into the 2020s.
One of the aims, it has emerged, is to look into harnessing wind and wave technology to meet the West Highlands’ residents’ electrical needs. Among the areas earmarked for development, however, are some of the Highland’s most beautiful landscapes.
It identifies Duror/Appin, Loch Laggan/Loch Ericht and southern Monadhliath uplands as being prime sites to take advantage of the evolving renewable energy technologies.
Laggan inhabitant, and long-time environmental campaigner, Roy Tylden-Wright, said Highland Council’s proposals affecting the area under the WHILP were “news to him”.
He said: “First and foremost I believe it should be locally supplied energy delivered straight to the consumers nearby. We can then move towards self-sufficient rural communities and settlements based on a self-sufficient power supply.
“Unfortunately, these renewable schemes are being developed by larger land owners for consumers right throughout the UK, using invasive infrastructure.”
The proposal also came as a surprise to Badenoch and Strathspey Highland Councillor Gregor Rimell, who lives in Newtonmore.
He said, that in his opinion, developing a wind farm in and around Loch Laggan could have a more damaging effect on the area than the proposed controversial Beauly-Denny electricity powerline upgrade.
“Here we have three areas of outstanding natural beauty at the heart of Monarch of the Glen country. We have been campaigning against pylons marching through the glens by the lochs, but I do not think that would be half as bad as having wind farms which would destroy the area.”
Don McKee, head of planning at the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “We have been consulted on the West Highland and Islands Local Plan.
“We are responding to the effect that the local plan should acknowledge the existence of the Cairngorms National Park as a national designation immediately adjoining the plan area, and the setting of the park should be taken into account in all aspects of the plan.”
Tim Stott, senior planner with Highland Council’s planning development service, said the WHILP had been advertised as required by law in local newspapers.
He added that the plan received 350 objections so far, mainly from Fort William, Kyle of Lochlash and Portree. There had, however, been no objections to it from the Kinlochlaggan area as yet.
Of the renewable energy idea, Mr Stott said: “It is part of a vision for development in the Lochaber area until 2025.
“If people have got any concerns about it then they are more than welcome to write to us ahead of Friday’s deadline.”
Ardverikie House which is on the shore of Loch Laggan gained worldwide recognition after it was used as the fictitious Glenbogle in the hit BBC series which ran for seven years.
At its peak, the show attracted an estimated global audience of 50 million viewers – and it still brings in tourists today.
A series of exhibitions and drop-in clinics were held across the West Highland and Islands region earlier this year to discuss the local plan for the Lochaber area.
The public were invited to have their say on proposals published by Highland Council on how they believe land should be earmarked for building or development over the next five to 10 years in the area.
This land will be shown in the new WHILP, and will become the council’s principal framework for deciding on future planning applications and will also shape the investment decisions of other public and private bodies.
The plan is currently available to read online at www.highland.gov.uk/whilp
Any objections to the plan should be sent in writing to the Director of Planning and Development, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX, before 5pm on Friday (March 14).
By Bryan Henesey
12 March 2008
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