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Wind farms ‘drive visitors away’ warn tourist bosses

Tourism chiefs have joined the fight against wind farms, claiming turbines could drive away visitors from a Scottish beauty spot.

In a departure from its usual stance, VisitScotland has raised concerns about a proposed 10-turbine development in Lockerbie, which would be visible from a popular tourist route.

The taxpayer-funded national body has repeatedly said it is not against the principle of wind farm development and its new stance has been welcomed by those opposed to Alex Salmond’s wind farm policy.

They are at the heart of the First Minister’s renewable energy plans, and he recently claimed they “enhance our appeal as a country”.

But critics say that they have a detrimental effect on the Scottish countryside and its appeal to tourists.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convener 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 tourist trade have been trying to get through to the Scottish Government for years.”

VisitScotland raised its concerns on the Lockerbie wind farm in a report set to go before Dumfries and Galloway Council on Thursday. The report states that the “proposed development appears to be visible from the Southern Upland Way, which is an important part of the tourism offering in the area.

“There have been a number of applications for wind farm developments along the route of the walk.

“Should all of these be granted there could be a cumulative detrimental effect on walkers.”

Anti-wind farm campaigners hope the Scottish Government will take note of the comments and are calling for a suspension on further wind farm development.

David Gibson, of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “This intervention is long overdue. I hope the Scottish Government sit up and take notice and orders a moratorium on wind farm developments.”

Angela Kelly, of campaign group Country Guardian, said: “The whole spirit of Scotland has been destroyed by wind farms.

“I hope this move will lead to more objections in future. It is better late than never.”

VisitScotland insists it still understands and supports the drive for renewable energy, but that potential impact on tourism should be considered.

A spokesman said: “When consulted as part of the formal planning process, VisitScotland recommends that tourism concerns are taken into account when granting planning permission, and encourages sensitive siting of developments at all times.

“Ultimately, it is for the local planning authority or Scottish ministers to make the final decision as to whether or not a development proposal is approved.”