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Wind farms and housing will destroy ‘wildness’ of national park

Britain’s largest national park is in danger of losing its unique “sense of wildness” due to the damaging effect of wind farms and a proposed housing development, outdoor enthusiasts have claimed.

In a strongly-worded response to the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s draft plan for 2012-2017, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has urged planners to ensure there is no further loss of natural habitat.

The council highlights the impact of wind farm developments and a housing project, which it claims will have an adverse effect on the natural landscape.

Similar concerns were raised by the director of planning for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Gordon Watson said yesterday regular applications for wind farms close to the edge of the national park were putting treasured landscapes and views at risk.

“It is a worry,” he said. “It isn’t just about the impact on the landscape and environment but on the tourism economy as well.

“If you are sitting in a boat on Loch Lomond with turbines on the horizon in every direction then is the experience still as good and what impact does it have on people’s wish to come and visit?”

In its statement, the mountaineering council, which represents 11,000 walkers and climbers, say: “It is the wildness of the arctic-alpine zone, and the opportunities for quiet recreation and physical challenge both in those areas, and on lowland crags, that makes the national park special to mountaineers.

“The feeling of wildness is central to the special experience that the park offers.

“There is great urgency to address the threat of a reduced sense of wildness as a result of the visual impact of development.

“The minimum should be to achieve no loss during 2012-17 as wildness is frequently lost through both incremental and major developments.”

MCofS says wildness is one of the defining features of the park and that it is the “glue” for the identity of the scenic area.

It believes the CNPA faces a particular challenge in ensuring the landscape context of the park does not become a ring of wind farm developments.

“There is already a significant impact on the special qualities of the park which are threatened by the numerous developments constructed or planned close to the boundary of the park.

“Many are highly visible from core upland areas within the park, and are having a significant impact on the wild quality.

“These are primarily wind energy developments, which pose an immediate and growing threat as the cumulative impacts are already evident, and there are more applications in the planning system.

“This is a challenge that needs to be urgently and consistently addressed by the CNPA, which should exert as much pressure as possible on decisions outside the national park.”

The group has also reiterated its opposition to the proposed new town of An Camas Mòr at Aviemore because the development would “change the character of the park and detract from the communities’ ‘sense of place’ in the landscape”.

It welcomes a project to address erosion caused by human activity in the hills and supports the continuation of the “closed system” on the Cairngorm funicular mountain railway which stops users getting out and walking on the mountain summit.