Campaigners are to be given more time to respond to controversial proposals which could see a large part of the countryside that provided the setting for the BBC hit series “Monarch of the Glen” earmarked for renewable energy projects.
Highland Council is also to hold a public meeting in Newtonmore on April 14 so that locals get their say on the proposed West Highland and Islands Local Plan.
The “Strathy” revealed a fortnight ago that stunning Loch Laggan and the southern Monadhliaths could be under-threat from wind farms and wave power projects – but that locals were unaware of the danger.
The anomaly has come about because the beauty spots – which were used as fictitious Glenbogle Estate in the BBC’s long-running comedy drama – fall just outside of the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park, now the local planning authority.
Although in the council’s administrative area of Badenoch and Strathspey, the consultation on the plans took place with inhabitants in Lochaber – and even Skye.
Broadcaster and author Cameron McNeish, who lives in Newtonmore and first exposed the omission, is delighted that locals will now get their say.
He said: “This is a welcome development and will give local people in Badenoch the opportunity to air their feelings about potential windfarm developments in what has become known throughout the world as Monarch of the Glen Country.
“It was something of an anomaly to have swathes of Badenoch included in the West Highlands and Islands Local Plan, despite the fact the national park has its own local plan, and I think Highland Council has perhaps recognised that.
“It’s now up to those people who have reservations about large scale industrialisation in areas like Lochs Laggan and Ericht to come along to the meeting and speak up. To remain silent is no longer an option.”
The initial deadline for responses concluded on March 14 but there will now be a chance for concerns to be raised at the meeting and again in May.
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 of the region 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.
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.
The four Highland councillors representing Badenoch and Strathspey had put pressure on the authority to allows locals to voice their opinions after what one decribed as an “oversight”.
Highland councillor for Badenoch and Strathspey Gregor Rimell is welcoming the chance for “a lively debate” on the Loch Laggan proposals.
The Lib Dem councillor said: “It seems that having been threatened with pylons, we are now threatened with turbines. Perhaps the next series of Monarch of the Glen will be about a laird diversifying the estate into scrap metal dealing.
“I have already had a conversation with a resident at Cat Lodge who has to generate his own electricity. It seems likely that he would still have to, even if he was surrounding by turbines.
“Wind farms may pay conscience money to affected communities, but they are there to profit lairds and big business.”
He continued: “I have been unsuccessful in finding an explanation of how windfarms are green. A thousand tons of concrete and a 150-foot metal tower and turbine sails have to be manufactured and transported to an area. Multiply this by how many turbines.
“Eco friendly peat bog is then damaged releasing thousands of tonnes of CO2.
“Then we have miles of pylons to transport the electricity to the conurbations, because in the interests of being green, government is inflicting windfarms on rural communities as far away as possible from millions of voters.”
The councillor added: “The only way to combat this march of metal might be a few bags of strategically placed Capercallie droppings.
“It seems to be the only safeguarded species, unlike local humans.”
Fellow Badenoch councillor Dave Fallows (SNP) said: “We wanted to make sure that everyone who wants to have a say is given the opportunity to do so.
“Personally, I am grateful that Cameron McNeish’s vigilance brought this matter to our attention, otherwise it may have slipped through under the radar, much to our collective chagrin.”
A total of 350 objections had been made to the local plan, mainly from Fort William, Kyle of Lochlash and Portree but there were none concerning the Kinlochlaggan area, when the story was first reported.
A Highland Council spokesman said: “The West Highland and Islands Local Plan will be subject to an additional consultation period from May 2008, and this meeting will give local residents the opportunity to discuss with local councillors and officials from the planning and development service whether the strategy of the Plan as it currently stands represents the aspirations of local communities.
“In particular, discussions will take place on a reference in the local plan to the potential renewable energy locations set out in Highland Council’s Highland Renewable Energy Strategy and Planning Guidelines first published in May 2006.”
Ardverikie House which is on the shore of Loch Laggan gained worldwide recognition after it was used as the home of the MacDonald clan in the 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.
* Highland Council is to hold a public meeting at 7pm at Newtonmore Village Hall. Copies of the Local Plan are available from the council web-site at www.highland.gov.uk (under Local Plans) or can be viewed at the following locations in the Badenoch and Strathspey ward area: Kingussie Service Point, Ruthven Road, Kingussie; Area Planning and Building Standards Office, 100 High Street, Kingussie; Laggan Village Hall, Laggan; Newtonmore Post Office, Main Street, Newtonmore, Dalwhinnie Post Office, Filling Station, Dalwhinnie, and; Badenoch Library, Badenoch Centre, Spey Street, Kingussie.
By Gavin Musgrove
26 March 2008
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