Another wind farm could be developed close to Inverness, this time at the gateway to the internationally recognised nature reserve in Glen Affric.
Falck Renewables has confirmed it is looking at a potential site at Breakachy near Beauly – across the valley from a planned project featuring 28 turbines about 460 feet high at Druim Ba Forest near Kiltarlity.
News of the possible development has emerged after The Inverness Courier revealed on Friday that 15 wind farms are either operational or planned around the Highland Capital, and less than a week after the Scottish Government approved a 33-turbine scheme in the Monadhliath Mountains.
Falck, which has an office at Dochgarroch, stresses the Breakachy project is at a very early stage.
“Falck Renewables carries out numerous feasibility studies and desktop assessments of sites before deciding which ones to progress,” explained spokesman Alasdair MacPherson. “If we do decide to take this site forward into the planning process then the first thing we would do is to carry out public consultation in the local community.”
However, the company has already run into trouble with some locals over its attempt to arrange access through nearby Aigas Forest, which is the subject of possible community buy-out.
Aigas Community Forest board is co-ordinating attempts to buy the 700-acre woodland from Forestry Commission Scotland and has voted not to enter negotiations with Falck, or any other party, to allow access through the forest to a commercial wind farm.
The decision has pleased world-renowned environmentalist Sir John Lister-Kaye, who is a champion for the community buyout and also owns the nearby Aigas Field Centre.
“This would be thoroughly unwelcome,” he said. “There is ample evidence from around the world that bird strike on wind turbines is a serious issue. On the one hand you are promoting a community forest for nature conservation, including birds such as black grouse, capercaillie and peregrine falcon, and then you bring a wind farm with very large turbines which have a proven record of harming these birds.”
Sir John also believes both Breakachy and the Druim Ba wind farms would be “scenically intrusive”.
“Strathglass is on the route to Glen Affric, Strathfarrar and Guisahan which are exquisitely beautiful. We already have to face up to a pylon line going down the valley which is bound to have a negative impact. To have wind farms on either side of the valley would be grossly insensitive planning.”
Ron McLaughlin, who lives near the proposed wind farm, also supports the board. “You would have to put a massive road in there because the developer would need to be able to gain access 24 hours a day for the 25 years of the wind farm,” he said. “You would not have a community forest. At certain times, we would not be allowed.”
Andrew Leaver, secretary of Aigas Community Forest, stressed that the decision did not mean the group was opposed to wind farms. “We are not keen that the forest is used as access to a wind farm because of the disruption to the forest area and also because there are numbers of people we want to support us in gaining ownership of the forest,” he said.
The group’s treasurer John Graham agreed. “Putting a road through there would make people’s enjoyment of the forest far more limited,” he commented.
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