Scotland’s mountain landscape is in danger of being sacrificed in favour of energy developments, climbers have claimed.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) said there was an urgent need to change the UK government’s renewable energy policy and Scottish ministers’ planning policy, which it says favours large-scale land-based wind-farm developments.
The council, which has 11,000 members, called for action ahead of Highland Council considering an application for the 31-turbine Allt Duine wind farm on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park on Tuesday.
RWE-npower Renewables wants to build the wind farm near Kincraig, 440 yards from the park’s western boundary.
An online petition against the development has gained hundreds of signatures while 23 objections have been sent to the council and another 105 to the Scottish Government, with 24 in support.
Council officials are recommending that councillors raise no objection to the development, which will be determined by ministers.
A report to the meeting says that within 60km of the Allt Duine site are six operational wind farms with 136 turbines, another five developments (67 turbines) approved or under construction, and nine (196 turbines) yet to be determined.
MCofS president Brian Linington said: “Whilst the final decision on Allt Duine ultimately rests with Scottish ministers, any decision other than rejection of the proposals by the Highland Council will send a clear signal that there is no local opposition to further and extensive wind-farm developments in the Monadhliath Mountains.
“We call on the Scottish Government to recognise the value of our upland landscape and revise its policy of wholesale planning approval for large-scale wind-farm developments in the mountains, or be recognised by both the Scottish people and internationally as the decision-makers responsible for permanently scarring Scotland’s wonderful mountain landscapes.”
Mr Linington said he believes Scotland’s renewables targets can be achieved without extensive development of mountain areas. “[Scotland’s mountains] are an asset for the tourism industry with its vital importance to the rural economy, sustainably supporting thousands of local jobs in the Highlands, in comparison to the transient job-creation schemes represented by wind farm developments.
“The mountains benefit the majority, rather than the minority who benefit disproportionately from the profits and subsidies made by and to the multinational wind power generation industry and landowners.”
The Save Monadhliath Mountains campaign has also called for a public inquiry to examine the plan.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland has huge renewables potential that can create jobs and opportunities and we are committed to ensuring that communities can benefit from Scotland’s vast natural resources. Developing our huge renewables potential will save consumers money in the long term, relative to a continued reliance on fossil fuels.”
He said the government would only approve the right wind farm applications in the right places and those applications that did not meet the strict criteria were rejected.
An RWE spokeswoman said of the Allt Duine plan: “This is a well-designed proposal within an area selected by Highland Council, which will bring significant local economic benefits.”
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