A controversial proposed wind farm near Inverness could impact on the popular Belladrum music festival, according to its organiser.
The annual event, which last year attracted more than 15,000 revellers, is marketed as being in “beautiful Highland surroundings”.
Now organiser and events promoter Joe Gibbs fears that will no longer be true if the plans for a 23-turbine wind farm at Druim Ba get the go-ahead.
Mr Gibbs is one of the more high profile objectors at a public inquiry which starts next week at Kiltarlity Village Hall to consider the wind farm project.
“We believe the scale of the proposed development will dramatically reduce the attraction of coming to the event,” Mr Gibbs said.
“Much of the audience are urban dwellers and are seeking to escape the sort of atmosphere and aesthetic brutalism that the proposed wind farm will impose on its neighbourhood.”
The festival, which takes place on 3rd and 4th August, is known as one of the best family friendly events in the country and this year’s acts include Scottish band Travis, The Wombats and a mystery guest for Friday’s main stage bill.
Developer Druim Ba Sustainable Energy (DBSE) wants to “keyhole” turbines up to 490ft at their highest point into Blairmore Forest between Kiltarlity and Drumnadrochit.
The company claims siting wind farms in forests has many advantages including retaining the forest structure, avoiding clear felling and also maintaining the forest as a carbon sink for the area. It also allows the forest to screen the turbine bases, substation, internal roads and other infrastructure.
But the project has met fierce resistance from anti-wind farm campaigners while Highland Council has also objected to the plans citing “significantly detrimental” visual impact on properties and communities near the site.
It would also be against the council’s draft policy for onshore windfarms which seeks to create a visual break from large-scale windfarms northwards from the Great Glen to beyond Cannich and Beauly.
The opponents and the developer are now preparing for the inquiry which starts on Tuesday and lasts up until 6th July.
It will be conducted by Scottish Government appointed reporter Dan Jackman who will present his findings to ministers.
The opponents include acclaimed environmentalist Sir John Lister-Kaye, and his son, Warwick, of Aigas Field Centre in Strathglass. They maintain more than 90 per cent of their guests are against wind farm development and do not believe they will make a significant contribution to climate change.
Other opponents taking part include the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society, the Druim Ba Say No Campaign, the combined Kiltarlity, Inverness West and Kilmorack community councils, and local residents.
In putting forward its case, DSBE will argue the keyholes will only be seen from three locations – the Great Glen Way, Carn na Leitre and Ardendrain. It will also point out that each hectare of felled forest will be replaced under a management plan which will increase biodiversity.
The project will create 975 full-time equivalent job years of employment over its lifetime from planning, forestry, community benefits and through wind farm construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning.
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