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Councillor fears that SNH map is a step ‘too far’

A plan to make more of Scotland’s wilderness off-limits to wind farms has proved unpopular with a Highland councillor.

Inverness member Thomas Prag said a new map potentially setting out no-go areas would shunt green energy schemes closer to people’s doorsteps.

The Scottish Natural Heritage map, drawn up for the Scottish government, identifies 43 areas of total wilderness – equating to about 20 per cent of Scotland’s land mass. It includes swathes of the Monadhliaths Mountains.

SNH said its new map should make it harder for developers to get permission to build on the wild land areas but it was still up to the government and councils to approve or deny planning applications on those areas.

Fears for the Highlands’ most remote areas have been escalating in recent months.

Concerns by anti wind farm protestors over renewable energy schemes “ruining” rugged landscapes have been backed by a number of Highland councillors.

The new SNH map is expected to be used by the government for guidance when planning decisions are being taken.

Mr Prag, who is chairman of the council’s planning, development and environment committee, said the document went “too far”.

He fears that the remaining 80 per cent of Scotland will come under even greater pressure to accommodate industrial turbines.

He added: “I can quite understand why Scottish Natural Heritage would be protective, but on the other hand if you protect too many areas of wild land the impact is you are pushing developments closer to where people live.”

SNH said the map simply identified wild lands.

“We had no control over where the wild land is,” a spokesman said. “Our role is simply to identify where it is. What we would expect is that whatever is proposed in wild land areas would be carefully scrutinised for its potential to impact on the wilderness. We would expect it to be more difficult for developers to get approval for development in wild land areas.”

The contentious issue will be debated by the planning, environment and development committee on Wednesday.