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Hillwalkers taking protest to the top; ‘Wake’ for loss of wild to wind turbines

Hillwalkers angered by the spread of Highland windfarms are planning a mountain-top protest which will include the cremation of a mock coffin in a symbolic “wake for the wilderness”.

The SNP government’s approval of 33 turbines, each 394ft (120m) tall, on an estate near Inverness was the last straw for seasoned trekker Alan Sloman, whose blog has prompted support from UK lovers of the outdoors.

Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather approved the 33-turbine windpark at Dunmaglass Estate last month.

The site, in the north of the Monadhliath Mountains, prompted 1,500 objections, including that of some Scottish Government advisers and the neighbouring Coignafearn Estate owner, publisher and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing. It takes to 15 the number of operational or proposed windfarms within a few miles of Loch Ness.

Ms Rausing confirmed yesterday that, despite her disappointment, she would not mount a legal challenge.

She said: “The Monadh-liath mountain range has a very particular ecology because the ground is exceptionally mineral rich, which means it can support a wide range of fauna and flora. Potentially, the Monadhliaths would, therefore, be a better-protected habitat for golden eagles and other protected species than some areas on the west coast because there is no shortage of food.”

She fears the scheme will make the Monadhliaths “less interesting as a conservation area” and pave the way for further industrialisation.

Mr Sloman, of Cambridge-shire, said it would be “industrialisation on a massive scale”.

He said: “I am trying to gather quite a few walkers together to walk a ‘coffin’ past Dunmaglass Lodge’s windows and on to the site of the highest proposed turbine, where we would set it on a funeral pyre while holding a wake for the wilderness.”

Ornithologist Roy Dennis and botanist Sir David Bellamy were among other objectors to the turbines, with the John Muir Trust and Cairngorms National Park Authority. Ornithologists fear species including red kite, ospreys, buzzards and merlin are at risk of death from collisions with turbine blades.

Mr Mather, whose ministerial role also includes tourism, considers Dunmaglass a step towards greater use of “clean, green electricity.”

The developer, Renewable Energy Systems, claims the £100million project would provide power for 40,000 homes. A spokeswoman said: “The windfarm is not within designated wild land. Dunmaglass is located in an area with no designations. We have carefully selected the site, which lies adjacent to one of the largest Highland Council ‘preferred areas’ (for windfarm development).”

A date is be to confirmed for the May demonstration.

Details will be on Alan Sloman’s blog at www.alansloman.blogspot.com