December 30, 2010

Giant windfarm approved by government despite local opposition

By Neil MacPhail, The Press and Journal, 30 December 2010

A large windfarm that could power double the number of homes in Inverness has been approved to the south-west of the city, despite huge opposition, including that of a neighbouring millionairess.

The 33 turbine, 99MW Dunmaglass windfarm, 20 miles from Inverness, will, on average, supply annually enough electricity for 46,000 houses, said the Scottish Government yesterday after giving the plan the go-ahead.

About 55 people will be employed during construction of the 400ft-high turbines, costing £70million to £100million, and the development will provide lasting community cash benefits, said developer Renewable Energy Systems.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said: “This is a another step on the road to a low-carbon Scotland, with a further 46,000 homes to be powered by clean, green electricity.

“I am pleased that the developer has agreed a community benefit package for the three local councils, and will fund a substantial package of upgrades of the local B851 road.”

The windfarm in the Monadhliath Mountains was recommended for approval by Highland Council despite opposition from more than 1,500 people, three community councils, the John Muir Trust and the Mountain- eering Council of Scot- land.

Sigrid Rausing, owner of neighbouring Coignafearn Estate and youngest daughter of Tetra Pak billionaire Hans Rausing, warned the “vast structures will be a testament to our folly of allowing landowners and corporations to exploit the public impulse to protect the environment”.

Ms Rausing was in Barbados yesterday, but said earlier: “This part of the Monadhliath has high ecological sensitivity, with abundant blanket bog and a suite of birds protected by European law. This proposal is neither green nor sustainable. It is economically unviable without government subsidies.”

No one was available for comment at Dunmaglass Estate yesterday, including owner, Bahamas-based billionaire Sir Jack Hayward.

Stratherrick and Foyers Community Council treasurer Alex Sutherland said their small community was being made to bear the brunt of green energy development, with four schemes in the area.

He said: “The load should be spread more evenly, particularly in areas where more consumers reside.”

The community council was concerned that Strathdearn would suffer heavy traffic that the roads were not engineered to cope with.

Community benefits of up to £4million over several years will be split between the three community councils.

Mountaineering spokes- man Chris Townsend said: “This is destroying the environment in order to protect it. I see no reason why windfarms need to be built in uninhabited wild areas. At 2,000ft up this one will be highly visible.”

Allan Johnston, of RES in Scotland, said: “Everyone here is delighted with the positive decision by the Scottish Government. Dunmaglass is an ideal location for a windfarm and has no landscape or ecological designations, which is why, after careful consideration, it has been approved.

“It has been in the planning system for six years. During that time, RES has listened to residents, consultees and stakeholders, taken their comments on board, and modified the proposal where possible to address the concerns raised.”

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