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Wilderness group fears for eagles; John Muir Trust condemns go-ahead for 33-turbine windfarm at Dunmaglass

A wild land charity last night claimed that golden eagles could be killed as a result of a planned multi-million pound wind development south of Inverness.

This is “wholly unacceptable”, the John Muir Trust said yesterday.

Bosses from the trust – the UK’s leading wild land conservation charity – said they were disappointed after the Scottish Government gave the green light for the development in the Monadhliath Mountains, a few miles east of Loch Ness.

Helen McDade, head of policy for the trust, said: “The Dunmaglass development consists of 33 turbines, each up to 120metres high. The trust objected to the development because of its impact on both wild land and wildlife.

“Our vision is that wild land is protected and the wild places are valued by and for everyone. This decision is yet another demonstration of the urgent need for greater protection of wild land.

“These mountains are entirely unique from other areas of wild land in the UK. The Dunmaglass development could set a precedent for more windfarms to be consented in areas of wild land.

“The scheme will result in unacceptable damage to a large area of relatively unspoilt upland peat land and significant disturbance to rare and protected species. In particular the anticipated death toll of up to 11 golden eagles is considered wholly unacceptable.”

The trust spoke out after the development was given the go-ahead on December 29 last year, despite huge opposition from residents including neighbouring millionairess Sigrid Rausing, who owns Coignafearn Estate.

The 33 turbine, 99MW Dunmaglass windfarm, 20 miles from Inverness, will, on, average supply annually enough electricity for 46,000 houses, according to the Scottish Government.

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.(RES)

The windfarm was recommended for approval by Highland Council despite opposition from more than 1,500 people, three community councils, the John Muir Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

Bird studies carried out by RES in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 revealed three highly sensitive species in the area of the windfarm; merlin, golden plover and Dunlin.

The studies found the area was used by a range of important bird species that did not breed there, particularly golden eagles, but the studies concluded “no significant impacts are predicted on any of the site’s ornithological features”.