November 1, 2012

Land watchdog attacked for skipping windfarm inquiry

The Press and Journal | 01/11/2012 |

A decision by Scotland’s environmental watchdog body not to attend a public inquiry into plans for a massive windfarm on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park was branded “a dereliction of duty” yesterday.

But Scottish Natural Heritage chairman Andrew Thin defended the decision, saying that while the group was not at the inquiry to be cross-examined it had submitted written evidence. Taxpayers’ money was being saved because it avoided “doubling up” the evidence from its sister quango, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), which has made itself available for cross-examination.

Critics pointed out, however, that unlike the park authority, SNH is a guardian of landscape beyond the park.

RWE npower Renewables wants to build 31 turbines, upto 410ft tall, at Allt Duine near Kincraig in the Monadhliath Mountains.

The Save the Monadhliaths campaign group formed to fight the plan has said the development would be tantamount to “building a Tesco superstore in the Grand Canyon”.

Dave Morris, of Ramblers Scotland, said: “Most people who value the wild places of Scotland will regard this as a dereliction of duty by SNH when faced with a project which has huge implications for the finest tract of wild mountain land in the UK. You could end up with a legal challenge to the inquiry because of difficulty in reaching a fair conclusion.”

He considers the proliferation of Highland windfarms as “a complete disaster” and accused Mr Thin of “complacency”.

Helen McDade, of the John Muir Trust, said: “A major concern is that on many occasions the developer uses, in evidence to the inquiry, the statement that ‘SNH have not objected’. Their absence might be used in decision-making as a reason to approve, which would be an erroneous interpretation of SNH’s position.”

SNH says it has not objected to the project as it does not consider that it “impacts outwith the Cairngorms National Park”. Asked if SNH and the CNPA had the same stance on the proposed windfarm, Mr Thin said: “No, I don’t think you can read that conclusion for the simple reason that we haven’t gone into the thing in the depth that the CNPA have done.”

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