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Objections put Cairngorm wind farm plan on hold

A controversial wind farm earmarked for the edge of the Cairngorms National Park will be examined at a public inquiry after councillors lodged an objection.

RWE-npower Renewables wants to build the 31-turbine Allt Duine wind farm on the Alvie, Dalraddy and Dunachton estates, near Kincraig. The 410ft structures would be 440 yards from the national park’s western boundary.

In December Highland councillors deferred comment on the application, although officials recommended the authority raise no objection to the development that will be determined by Scottish ministers.

Yesterday the council’s planning application committee took the UK’s highest railway journey to help them assess the visual impact of the proposal. They travelled on the funicular close to the summit of Cairn Gorm to get a view of where the wind farm may be built before voting 9-3 in favour of voicing an objection to the plan, a move that will trigger an inquiry to discuss the application.

They backed committee vice chairman Dave Fallows who said the council should object on the grounds of the proximity to the Cairngorm National Park, the significant detriment to the landscape of the Monadhliath mountain range and the emerging Draft Highland Renewable Energy Strategy.

Another local councillor, Stuart Black, said with the park covering five local authority areas, other possible developments will come forward.

“I would like this to go to a public inquiry to see what weight is given in national policy and guidelines to the impact on a national park,” he said.

Inverness councillor Donnie Kerr said he was concerned at the cumulative effect of developments on the park: “I wonder when will enough be enough? Will it be when we replace the old great forest of Caledon with a forest of wind farms?”

But another Inverness councillor Thomas Prag said on balance he felt the committee did not have sufficient grounds to object.

RWE said efforts would be made to minimise the visual impact of the development.

An online petition against the development has gained hundreds of signatures and 23 objections were sent to the council and another 105 to the Scottish Government, with 24 in support.

Objectors included the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Scottish Campaign for National Parks and some local estates.

The council’s stance was welcomed by the Save the Monadhliath Mountains (SMM) campaign which said the development in an area of unspoilt wild land would be devastating and “a step too far”.

Chris Townsend, a spokesman for the group, said: “A huge amount of Scottish natural heritage is at stake and it is crucial that the proposal is assessed thoroughly. The only way to guarantee a meticulous assessment is for the application to be heard at a full public inquiry undertaken by the Scottish Government.”

SMM says the Allt Duine wind farm is one of 11 developments proposed or currently under construction on the edge of the national park and are concerned about the cumulative effect of turbines on the landscape. The campaign is backed by more than 1,300 supporters and organisations such as Scottish Campaign for National Parks, Walk Highlands and Scotland-Landscapes.

Jenny Gascoigne, RWE npower renewables’, wind development manager for Scotland said the council’s decision was a disappointing set back.

She said: “The Allt Duine Wind Farm is located in the Highland Council’s preferred area of search for wind farms. Although close to the Cairngorm National Park, the turbines would be shielded from view by the ridgeline which forms the Park boundary.”

She said the turbines would not be visible from Kincraig, Kingussie or Aviemore or along the A9 corridor adding: “We believe the proposed layout will have minimal affects on all aspects of the environment and Scottish Natural Heritage has not objected to this application. We are confident that we will have a strong case to put forward at the public inquiry.”