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Wind farm plans would fail guidelines test

A key objective of the Scottish Government’s recent report, ‘The economic impacts of wind farms on Scottish tourism’, to which Robert McHugh’s recent letter (‘Visitor survey’s accuracy is called into question‘, ‘The Northern Scot’, April 11) refers, was “to make recommendations for the planning authorities which could help minimise any negative effects of wind farms on the tourism industry”, according to the Government’s research findings.

As guidelines for local planners to “progress the right [wind farm] developments in the right location”, thereby ensuring the compatibility of wind farms with tourism – the belief of Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Minister Jim Mather – the recommendations should be welcomed. Essentially, the planning guidelines require that:

The numbers of wind farms should not “occur in the same general area”, i.e. accumulations of wind farms are to be avoided; numbers of wind farms “in sight at any point” be avoided; the tourism industry and wind farm developers work together “to protect certain areas from development” such as “national parks and national scenic areas”, including, presumably, areas of great landscape value; wind farms avoid areas where there are tourists travelling past; the views of local tourist businesses be sought; developers produce tourist impact statements as part of the environmental impact statement.

Welcome as these tests for wind farm/tourism compatibility are, not one of the seven wind farms being considered by local authority planners for development in the catchment area of the River Findhorn and the Dava Moor will pass a single test.

All seven wind farms are in “the same general area”, an unprecedented accumulation in Scotland; all seven wind farms will be “in sight” from most of the surrounding area; all seven wind farms will be developed mostly in an area designated of great landscape value; all seven wind farms are in an area straddled by key tourist-bearing roads: A940, A939, B9007; the views of local tourist businesses on any of the wind farms have not been sought; not one developer has produced a tourism economic impact statement.

By ignoring Government-researched guidelines intended to nullify the economic impact of wind farms on tourism, Highland/Nairn and Moray planning authorities are virtually guaranteeing the destruction of a key asset of Moray and Nairn tourism – the unspoiled landscape of the Findhorn catchment and the Dava Moor.

Aside from the severe socio-economic consequences of these drastic planning faults, is the cumulative impact of seven wind farms, up to 175 turbines each 400 feet high, on the area’s environment, habitat and hydrology. Everyone with a stake in Moray and Nairn tourism should be demanding a halt to the industrialisation of their natural heritage now, before it too late. – Yours etc,

James Stuart, Dunphail.

The Northern Scot

25 April 2008