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Wind farm will not strengthen economy  

For a number of reasons, your report (11th April) that the Gordonbush wind farm has gained planning permission makes depressing reading.

The democratic deficit is extraordinary. In addition to the chaotic circumstances in which the Highland Council gave support to the project in June 2007, one needs to ask just how many valid objections are required to convince the Scottish Government.

There is an array of major conditions attached to the approval. This shows not only did the Scottish Government not listen to the objections to this scheme, they would rather not listen to any objection to any scheme. Instead, they would prefer to steamroller applications calling them “milestones” or “sensitively scaled and sited” projects, notions repeated almost word for word by the local MSP, Rob Gibson.

On the fiscal and economic side, little or no consideration has been given to those who will benefit undeservedly, and of course unintentionally; about how few long-term employment benefits will arise; and about how, on the technical side, very little carbon off-setting electricity will be produced. But the negative outcomes around these issues are almost inevitable when democratic processes are side-stepped or ignored.

Because the wind farm will come within 50 metres of the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, and is close to golden plover and golden eagle breeding areas, it is likely that these and other significant wildlife species will suffer. Of course, the wind farm is 50 metres outside the protection area; such adherence to the letter, rather than the spirit, of the law is again evidence of the democratic deficit.

It is not always fashionable to comment on the aesthetics, or landscape values. As one who has walked from Kildonan station to Gordonbush at least once per year since 1965, as well as in many other parts of Scotland, I consider the uplands of East Sutherland outstanding and almost unique. Because the moorlands here are of a more or less common height, at least as far as Ben Hope and An Teallach, the general visibility of this wind farm is exceptionally high.

I probably fall into the “don’t spoil the view” camp, but I also understand fully the economic fragility of the area. This intrusion will not only do nothing to strengthen this, it may make it weaker as tourists change their plans to visit.

The great traveller and travel writer, Robert Macfarlane, once wrote about polar bears. He explained that it is not the seeing of them that is important, but knowing they are there. The same is true of this landscape, about to suffer the greatest man-made shock in its history – including the cutting down of the aboriginal forest.

Or, as Joni Mitchell put it: “You don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone”. Maybe a platitude, but like many it’s completely true, especially in this case.

Alec Synge, Cedar Cottage, Burnt Lodge Lane, Ticehurst, East Sussex.

The Northern Times

17 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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