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'Monarch of Glen' windfarms fear

Planning chiefs draw blanks on Council green energy strategy at Newtonmore meeting.

Planning chiefs were unable to provide answers to some basic questions about Highland Council’s green energy strategy at a public meeting dominated by argument over potential effects of proposed windfarms on a tourism hot-spot.

Leading conservationists and outdoor experts living locally warned that the lifeline industry could be devastated if a proliferation of turbines, proposed for “Monarch of the Glen Country” in Badenoch and Strathspey, were approved.

Fifty people attended the Newtonmore meeting to raise their concerns and seek answers from two senior council planners.

Neither could inform anti windfarm campaigners when “enough” turbines would be built in the north of Scotland or what the council’s target was for reducing the north of Scotland’s carbon emissions.

The issues were prominent at a meeting intended to update Badenoch and Strathspey residents about wider issues contained in a revised West Highland and Islands local plan on which further consultation was promised.

Author and broadcaster Cameron McNeish was applauded after warning that local tourism was threatened by the UK and Scottish Governments’ “knee-jerk reaction” to climate change if it led to “ineffective windfarms” being built beside Loch Laggan and Loch Ericht.

Dick Webster, head of Kingussie High School’s science department, however, defended the technology.

“Far from windfarms decimating the countryside, they produce a lot of sustainable energy,” he said. Unaware of a council target for tackling carbon emissions, principal planner Colin MacKenzie said: “The framework for considering development proposals is set out by way of the national advice, government advice to councils, and that is the basis on which planning applications will be processed.”

He denied that the planning system was balanced in the developers’ favour, as suggested by at least one anti windfarm campaigner present.

Newtonmore resident Robert Nisbet asked what punishment should be expected if the Highlands failed to meet the Government’s green targets.

He asked: “Can we not just be like the French and the Italians and just put the memos to the bottom of the pile and pretend they don’t exist?”

The council panel assumed it was a rhetorical question.

The Press and Journal

16 April 2008