Scotland’s tourist chiefs have admitted for the first time that wind farms could have a detrimental effect on tourism.
VisitScotland opposed plans for a 10-turbine development at Minnygap, Lockerbie.
The views are contained in a Dumfries and Galloway Council planning committee report that will go before councillors on Thursday.
VisitScotland’s position emerged as a planning inquiry gets under way today into the Allt Duine wind farm, which would see 31 turbines built half-a-mile from the boundary of Cairngorms National Park.
The intervention by the agency into the Lockerbie proposal comes days after Alex Salmond claimed wind farms “enhance our appeal as a country”.
The submission from the tourist body states the “proposed development appears to be visible from the Southern Upland Way, which is an important part of the tourism offering”.
“There have been a number of applications for wind farm developments along the route. Should all of these be granted there could be a cumulative detrimental effect on walkers.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convenor of the Scottish parliament’s energy and tourism committee, said: “If wind farms will damage tourism in one area of Scotland, this is surely the case the country over. This is a message communities reliant on the tourism trade have been trying to get through to the Scottish Government for years.”
VisitScotland has maintained it is not against the principle of wind farm development, and released a survey earlier this year that claimed four out of five tourists visiting Scotland do not see wind farms as a problem.
Campaigners have welcomed its position on the proposal.
Susan Crosthwaite, chairwoman of Communities Against Turbines Scotland, said: “It is very welcome that VisitScotland are at last taking a proactive approach to objecting.”
A VisitScotland spokesman said the body understood and supported the drive for renewable energy. He added: “When consulted as part of the formal planning process, VisitScotland recommends tourism concerns are taken into account when granting planning permission, and encourages sensitive siting of developments at all times.”
Critics of the Allt Duine development claim the wind farm proposed by RWE Innogy, for land west of the A9, would industrialise a precious area of the Highlands, and be a link in a chain of wind farms that would encircle Scotland’s biggest national park.
Given its proximity to the national park, many believe it presents the Government with a landmark decision to make.
Ministers had always been due to decide the fate of the development because of its size, but the inquiry was triggered after Highland Council voted three to one against the plan.
The application is opposed by other statutory consultees including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the John Muir Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
Duncan Bryden, convener and planning chairman of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “If allowed to go ahead, this wind farm would transform the Monadhliath skyline and contribute to the gradual encircling of the north-western boundary of the Park – with turbines visible from iconic high points like the Ptarmigan Restaurant.”
Jenny Gascoigne, RWE npower renewables’ wind development manager, earlier said the turbines would be shielded from view by the ridgeline that forms the park boundary.
The turbines would not be visible from Kincraig, Kingussie or Aviemore or along the A9 corridor, she added.