The Cairngorms National Park is objecting to amended plans for 33 wind turbines tipping 125 metres which will be visible from the Cairngorms and other high tops in the strath.
Renewable Energy Systems Development Ltd is behind the controversial scheme to construct the wind farm on land on the Dunmaglass Estate in the Monadhliath Mountains.
The location lies 10km north west of the national park boundary but members said that along with the development of other wind farms proposed close-by, it would spoil views for visitors to the area.
The Dunmaglass development is around 40 kilometres away from CairnGorm Mountain’s £19 million funicular railway but will still be visible from the Ptarmigan station on clear days as well as the nearer Munros Carn Sgualin and Geal Charn.
The park authority objected in June 2005 to the original application for 36 turbines measuring 110 metres in height along with its associated infrastructure.
Planners told park board members at their latest meeting in the Albert Memorial Hall in Ballater on Friday that the plans had now been scaled down in number.
The proposal has been amended to 33 turbines of 125 metres in height based upon a more compact layout with two met masts of up to 80 metres. The expected operational life of the wind farm is 25 years from the date of commissioning.
But planners recommended that members of the park’s planning committee should object to the plans that will be determined by the Scottish Government because of the amount of power proposed to be generated.
Mr Andrew Tait, park planning officer, said: “Several of the high points along the boundary and within the park that have a direct view to the application site are Munros and Corbetts. These are targets for many hillwalkers who seek these features.
“The sense of wildness is often an important feature in the enjoyment of such groups and it is a key characteristic of the park. Its value is therefore very high.”
Mr Tait said that the visual impact of the tubines would now be worse than the original proposal because of the increase in height of the turbines and the rash of wind farms proposed in the vicinity.
He said: “Farr has now been built and so the Dunmaglass application must be seen in conjunction with this. In addition there is the application at Glen Kirk which has yet to be determined. Finally there is an application at Corriegarth.
“The cumulative impacts are significantly greater than before because of these additional applications, of which Glen Kirk has the greatest. There are at least two other possible proposals including Tom nan Clach and Balavil (Allt Duine).”
Mr Tait added: “The visual impacts are more severe than before. It is clear therefore that the original objection should be maintained.”
There are also fears that a wind farm at Dunmaglass could pose a threat to one of Scotland’s most iconic birds – the golden eagle.
The background report that went before planing committee members stated: “The Monadhliath Mountains is an important area for the Scottish golden eagle population, especially for dispersing and prospecting sub-adult birds.
“Indeed, several wildlife tourism operators, some of which are based in the Cairngorms National Park, take guests up Strathdearn to observe golden eagles and other raptor species.
“Although the site itself is not considered to currently support a breeding pair, this species has nevertheless been frequently recorded from vantage points in the study area.
“The total number of individuals recorded has been considerable, particularly during the breeding season of March to August. The species has been observed for the third greatest amount of time after the raven and pink-fotted goose and a significant proportion of flights have occurred at rotor height.”
The report stated that the number of golden eagles in the area may even have been under-estimated as observers carried out the study on site “given the species’ keen senses and wariness of humans”.
It continued: “That golden eagles from the Cairngorms National Park overfly the site of the proposed windfarm at Dunmaglass is evidenced by recent radio-telemetry data provided by a satellite-tracked juvenile golden eagle which fledged in Glen Feshie in 2007.
“The CNPA is a partner in this research project, having funded the purchase of the satellite tracking equipment, it was felt that more knowledge was required on how juvenile golden eagles use the landscape.
“On two occasions in 2008 in late April and early May this bird flew across the windfarm site as she moved back and fore between the Cairngorms and North West Highlands.”
The Dunmaglass area could also be good places to reintroduce hen harriers, white-tailed eagles and red kite – the latter two species became extinct due to persecution in previous centuries – in the future, according to the report.
After the meeting, park planning committee member Dave Fallows said: “The opposition was not so much to this wind farm alone but the cumulative effect that we are now beginning to see across our skyline.”
It is estimated that more than 57,000 man days would be required from the pre-construction period through to the decommissioning, with the majority of these being local or regionally sourced employees;
RES said they will be discussing with the local communities the potential for establishing links between renewable energy, the local community and training opportunities. They hope to set up specific schemes in parallel with construction of the wind farm.
RES’ assessment of the A9 and railway concluded that the only stretch where there would be any impact is between Carrbridge and Tomatin. There will be intermittent views of perhaps one blade tip at Dunmaglass and three blade tips at Farr, they said.
The park authority has request that the Scottish Government in coming to their final decision is satisfied that the energy benefits outweigh the carbon footprint of constructing the scheme.
They have also pointed out that the site is located outside of the preferred areas identified by the Highland Council Renewable Energy Planning Guidelines for major onshore developments.
Scottish Ministers have set a target of generating 40 per cent of the country’s electricity from renewable resources by 2020.
30 July 2008
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