A controverisal wind farm close to Cairngorm National Park has been given the green light by ministers – despite hundreds of objections to the plans.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing has granted permission for a 59-turbine farm to be built on the Glenfiddich estate, near Dufftown in Moray, even though it has been claimed it will damage tourism and wildlife.
A high-profile campaign to prevent the £250 million development was launched by protest group Stop Dorenell Wind Farm. Moray Council, Cairngorm National Park Authority and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland also objected to the proposals.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) also raised concerns over disruption to golden eagle hunting sites in the area.
In a written submission to a public inquiry on the planning application, RSPB area manager Ian Francis said: “RSPB Scotland still has concerns about the potential impacts of this proposed development, particularly on golden eagles, and potentially on some other species.
“We recognise that the wind farm site overlaps with areas used by eagles for hunting.”
Speyside Business Alliance also claimed that, if the plans were passed, there was a risk to tourism as “tourists, unsurprisingly, prefer to be in areas that represent great natural beauty without compromise”.
The development, which received 615 representations in its favour, will provide power for around 84,000 homes – double the number of houses in Moray – and create 75 jobs during its construction.
It is also claimed it will generate at least £93m in direct benefits for the Scottish economy.
An extension to an existing wind farm in Lewis, which has the capacity to power 9000 homes, has also been approved.
Mr Ewing said: “These two projects will provide a significant boost to the economy and to our efforts to become a green-energy powerhouse. Once up and running, the Dorenell wind farm will produce enough green electricity to power double the number of homes in Moray, creating new jobs and cutting emissions.
“The development will provide a new visitor centre, stimulate wider regeneration, and help protect the environment through fisheries and habitat management plans.
“The Muaitheabhal extension (on Lewis) will see extra capacity added to the existing plans and both developments will play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand coming from renewables by 2020.
“Crucially, I am pleased to see local communities profiting from Scotland’s vast natural resources through community benefit agreements that will keep money in our communities.”
The developer of the Dorenell wind farm, Infinergy, has pledged to deliver long-lasting benefits to the local community – worth about £350,000 a year – including new housing and tourism opportunities with the development of a visitor centre.
The extension to the Muaitheabhal wind farm on the Eisgein estate in Lewis will also help the community, with some money from its revenue going to the Muaitheabhal Community Windfarm Trust and also to the Western Isles Development Trust.
The Scottish Government revealed it has approved more than 50 energy applications since 2007, and officials are considering another 40 applications of nearly four gigawatts of renewables capacity.
Earlier this week The Herald reported that experts fear space is running out for wind farm developments, with warnings that there are only a few years of “serious” onshore developments left as suitable sites disappear.
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