The proposal for wind farm-free zones in remote parts of Scotland (your report, 4 April) seems superficially attractive.
However, I can see some dangers in this approach. Once these zones are designated, will there then be a presumption in favour of wind farm developments in the rest of Scotland?
If I may be a little parochial, at the moment there is a wind farm under consideration in a prominent position at the approach to the Sma’ Glen between Crieff and Amulree.
This is not a particularly remote or “wilderness” area but one of the most attractive stretches of landscapes in Scotland. Could it end up having less protection under these proposals?
There are many similar areas of great natural beauty in Scotland which could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as wilderness but which would be ruined by inappropriate renewable energy developments.
Any new policies must be written with extreme care so as not to weaken the protection given to sensitive areas elsewhere in the country.
One hasn’t to be a philosophical pessimist to doubt if new planning guidelines will protect “top spots from wind turbines”.
We need only to recollect that planners, councillors and ministers set aside rules protecting a national site of scientific interest.
Also, the proposals are only for “areas of natural beauty” and “wild land protection”. Were a development deemed to be in the “national economic interest” the guidelines could be overruled.
Proposals seeking to protect “the most beautiful landscapes” are only guidelines and not prescriptive legal rules. Noticeably, there is no mention of individuals and communities suffering from the impact of contiguous wind turbines.
From the viewpoint of ethical economics, the wind turbine free-for-all is a graphic example of market failure.
There are huge “externality” costs imposed on individuals and communities that don’t figure in planning decisions or in private enterprise balance sheets.
Arguably, a suitable location map based on “externality criteria” is needed urgently to protect individuals and community.
Old Chapel Walk
While it is an encouraging sign that Mr Salmond is prepared to allow parts of our country to remain uncovered by wind turbines, the practical effects of these latest proposals which he has allowed Scottish Natural Heritage to make are unlikely to be significant.
Our most scenic areas were already protected by planning rules. With the significant exception of the Lammermuirs, these have in fact been generally respected.
More seriously, our politicians, none of whom, as far as I have been able to determine, actually live anywhere near wind turbines (unless they own them) consistently deny that there is anything wrong with forcing others to live beside them.
When the turbines are eventually gone, replaced by cheaper and better energy sources and saner policies, the landscape will still be there for future generations to enjoy.
However, the lives that are being ruined now by the noise of turbines less than half a mile from a bedroom window, will have been damaged irretrievably.
Jack W Ponton
I read with interest your article that said Alex Salmond intends to declare certain areas of Scotland as “turbine-free”. I’m afraid this is a classic case of too little, too late.
I first called for zoning ten years ago and the First Minister has only decided to do so now, after 44,000 letters of protest.
Unfortunately, vandalism of our countryside has occurred, with turbines littering our landscape.
Other wind farm applications wending their way through the planning system also threaten our wild beauty around places like Loch Ness and Loch Lomond, next to the Cairngorms National Park, on the edge of the Galloway Dark Skies Park and the Unesco Biosphere, in the Lammermuirs and throughout the Borders.
It is not up to Mr Salmond, at his desk in Edinburgh, to designate those areas that should not be wrecked by industrial turbines; it is up to the local planners who have detailed knowledge of their areas.
This should not be a top-down process, but a bottom-up process involving all rural planners.
Struan Stevenson MEP
News that the Scottish Government is to draw up new guidance aimed at protecting some of Scotland’s most treasured landscapes (4 April) is welcome.
The John Muir Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland in particular have made laudable and strenuous efforts to draw attention to the wider value and precarious nature of Scotland’s wild lands.
We hope that as the detail of this guidance comes to light full recognition is given the issues they have highlighted.
While much of the focus in recent debate has understandably been on the impact of renewable energy generation, a survey of our members revealed that there was also great concern over other threats to our landscapes.
Notably, these were perceived to be from over-development, the latter in terms of imposition on the green belt and amenity land, and the insensitive development of the built environment, as well as neglect and dereliction.
We fully recognise that reconciling the requirements of tackling climate change, reducing energy needs and encouraging economic development is complex and difficult.
Nevertheless, Scotland’s beauty must be conserved.
As conservation is the management of change, we as a society should manage necessary changes, including renewable energy developments, to protect vulnerable assets.
These assets exist in places across all parts of Scotland, not just the far north and west.
We look forward to guidance that recognises the intrinsic value of these landscapes to Scotland’s economic and general wellbeing which can be applied fairly and wisely across the entire nation.
(Sir) Kenneth Calman
The National Trust for Scotland
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