A clan chief this week joined forces with local residents to fight plans for a wind farm bordering one of Scotland’s most iconic Munros – Ben Wyvis.
Falck Renewables and their British partners Coriolis Energy are consulting on plans for 17 turbines, each 127 metres high, on Clach Liath in the Wyvis Forest above Evanton.
Residents living closest to the site are up in arms about it and have accused the developers of presenting the community with misleading information.
Now they have been joined by the Earl of Cromartie, chief of the clan Mackenzie and a keen mountaineer, who described it as “a wind farm too far”.
Lord Cromartie, whose home at Castle Leod sits in the shadow of Ben Wyvis on the edge of Strathpeffer, pointed out that the Clach Liath turbines would be more than twice the height of those at the existing Novar Wind Farm.
“It would probably be the most conspicuous wind farm in the north. You’d be able to see it from Inverness, never mind the Black Isle,” he told the Journal.
“It would stand out for a huge distance and reduce the value of our landscape. In terms of scale, let’s face it, our hills are pretty wee. If you put something 400ft high on them it’s going to make them look ridiculous. You’d never get away with that in France or Italy or Switzerland.”
Lord Cromartie, a past president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, continued, “The first of the 127m high turbines would be nearly at the summit of Meall na Speireig and close to the entrance of Coire Mor, the biggest and grandest of Wyvis’s corries.”
Among those living closest to the site who have vowed to oppose the plans is chartered surveyor Gordon Robertson, former factor for Mohamed al Fayed at Balnagown, with whom he was closely involved in planning a proposed wind farm in Sutherland a few years ago.
He realises he’ll be accused of nimbyism, but insists he’s being entirely consistent. “I’m a great supporter of wind farms, but in the right place,” he said.
Mr Robertson, of Fannyfield, Swordale, near Evanton, said a public exhibition by the developers in the village hall recently had left a bitter taste.
“The information we were given was in my view misleading. On their leaflets and display boards at the public meeting, not a single house was shown. On a picture of the view from the Black Isle, there was no sign of the existing wind farms at Novar and Beinn Tharsuinn – theirs was the only one you could see – so there was no indication of the cumulative impact,” he said.
“Even worse, when asked if an exhibition was to be held on the Black Isle, we were told that the developers had been informed this would not be necessary. This must surely be an insult to the residents of the Black Isle who currently enjoy the view that causes so many visitors to pull over on the A9 and photograph this stunning piece of landscape.”
He described Ben Wyvis as an iconic Munro that included a National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area, a Special Conservation Area, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“The land proposed for the wind farm is squeezed tight up against all these designations but also has part of the NNR within its ground. The site cannot be moved, because it is hemmed in by all these protection areas,” he said.
He claimed the developers would make over £3 million a year from the wind farm, but there were no plans for a community benefit fund. All they had been offered was the opportunity to “buy into” one of the turbines.
Harry Malyon of Coriolis, the developer working on behalf of Falck Renewables, said, “We were very pleased with the turnout at our first round of public exhibitions and the level of support from local people. We understand that whilst there are a few people who will never like our proposal there were also issues raised which we hope to address as the consultation process continues.”
He said it had now been agreed to hold a further public exhibition on the Black Isle, in Findon Hall, and this would be advertised once a date had been agreed.
Mr Malyon added, “The proposed wind farm is on the Swordale moor which is part of Clach Liath estate, hence the name. It is separated and distinct from Ben Wyvis. The site has been specifically chosen to avoid any specially designated areas which protect wildlife or landscape, although we will continue further in-depth studies to assess any potential impacts in detail as part of the consultation process. The site is more than 2km away from any houses.
“The visuals in the leaflet and at the exhibition were produced in order to ensure that people could clearly see the wind farm and because of that they over-emphasise its potential visibility. The montage from Culbokie includes Novar wind farm although it is quite difficult to see in the photographs at the distances involved. In terms of cumulative impact we will assess this fully as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment and further photographic visuals will be available once the layout has been finalised.”
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