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Princess Anne: Why I so hate the sight of wind turbines

The Princess Royal has attacked plans to build a giant offshore wind farm next to one of her favourite lighthouses.

Princess Anne spoke out against proposals for up to 300 turbines close to Skerryvore Lighthouse, off the coast of Tiree.

As patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board, she believes the view of the 170-year-old lighthouse – the tallest in the UK – should be preserved.

It is the first time the princess has spoken in public about wind turbines, which her father, Prince Philip, has branded ‘useless’.

She said: ‘They gave planning permission for 700 windmills on the reef around Skerryvore – they did the same at Bell Rock but rescinded it – and these are Grade A-listed buildings. You’d never get away with that onshore.’

The Princess Royal was referring to ScottishPower’s £7billion Argyll Array wind farm, which could include up to 300 turbines and has yet to be approved.

The Bell Rock planning application was withdrawn by power company SSE in 2010 because of potential problems with ships’ radar.

If approved, the ScottishPower application could see turbines almost four times the height of Skerryvore built just north of the historic lighthouse.

Princess Anne’s intervention has been welcomed by islanders’ campaign group No Tiree Array, which has fought for years against the wind farm.

Secretary Robert Trythall said last night: ‘It is fantastic that someone in this lady’s position would come out and say this.

‘Princess Anne is a great fan of Scotland and she is standing up for Scotland. Skerryvore is one of the most stunning engineering and architectural feats of the 19th century and to have it casually obliterated by these wind turbines would be unforgivable.’

The wind farm proposal has been put on ice amid concerns of its possible impact on basking sharks and great northern divers, seabirds native to the area.

ScottishPower is also reviewing the technology it intends to use, although it has not abandoned its plans and hopes to submit a planning application by late 2015.

Princess Anne’s intervention came in an interview about her affection for the Scottish countryside. Her love affair with the country began as a child, when the Royal family spent three months of every year at Balmoral.

Now aged 62, the Princess Royal has named her new £500,000 yacht Ballochbuie after the pine forest behind Balmoral.

As one of the busiest members of the Royal family, with 500 public engagements a year, she takes every opportunity to escape north of the Border for days sailing along the West Coast with her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

Speaking this week, she said: ‘Sailing means you can get away from things. There are so many places you can go in the Scottish islands where you get this gorgeous light and these stunning views.

‘Coll, for example, looks like a pretty unprepossessing island but it has its own magic. I’ve also been to St Kilda three times. I’ve been lucky because it’s so difficult to get to. The houses there tell you more about the history than any books.’

The Princess Royal said Americans in particular tended to be awestruck by the wilderness in Scotland, adding: ‘They can’t get a grip of the fact that you’ve got all these people living here yet you get t hese remarkable empty vistas.

‘The advantage of being able to get around, particularly in a helicopter, is that you do have the chance to see a lot of the country.

‘Take Dumfries and Galloway – most people forget there is a huge lump of granite in the middle of Galloway quite unlike what most assume that area to be.’

A spokesman for ScottishPower did not respond to Princess Anne’s comments but said: ‘ScottishPower Renewables is reviewing data gathered as part of our environmental assessment studies of the potential Argyll Array windfarm site.

‘We are also monitoring technological developments in the offshore wind industry in relation to technical issues linked to physical conditions at the site.

‘These reviews are being completed with a view of submitting a planning application to the Scottish Government towards the end of 2015.’