Finance Secretary John Swinney has granted planning consent for a proposed wind farm at Tom Nan Clach, north-east Tomatin.
The decision was made on the same day that planning consent of Glenkirk wind farm, north-east Tomatin was rejected.
The proposed Tom Nan Clach wind farm, which will be developed by Nanclach Ltd, is expected to have 17 turbines and have a generating capacity of up to 39.1MW. The farm could power the equivalent of more than 18,000 homes in the area.
Mr Swinney found that the impact of the proposed Glenkirk wind farm on the landscape and the visual aspect was “too high”.
The original application submitted by developers Eurus Energy UK Limited was for a 102MW, 34 turbine wind farm on Balnespick Estate. However after several revisions this was reduced to a 26 turbine proposal.
Mr Swinney said: “The Tom Nan Clach wind farm will create jobs both in its construction and during its lifetime, as well as having the capacity to supply more than 18,000 homes with renewable electricity.
“Wind farms, like Tom Nan Clach, will help us achieve our 500 MW target which could be worth up to £2.4 billion to Scottish communities and rural businesses over the lifetime of those projects. And with more than 600 MW at different stages of development and planning, the future for community and locally owned energy across Scotland looks brighter than ever.
“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places and Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of any wind farm should reflect the scale and character of the landscape and should be considered environmentally acceptable.
“The significant adverse impacts of the proposed Glenkirk wind farm on nearby wild land and key landscape characteristics in conjunction with the cumulative effects with other wind farms and visual impacts on recreational and road users is too great.”
But anti-windfarm campaigner Pat Wells, convener of Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments, insisted: “Our members maintain that approval for ANY wind farm development on the wild peatlands of the Dava Hills shows a complete disregard for the thousands of people who objected, for the location’s designation as a Special Landscape Area and for the important bird populations which use these hills as hunting grounds and flight paths.
“The decision to approve Tom nan Clach can only be seen as duplicitous on the part of the dictatorial SNP government which currently sees fit to over-rule local authority and community views on wind farm development.
“Tom nan Clach will be seen as a hideous carbuncle in the heart of a very special wild landscape. In particular, views much admired over the centuries by locals and visitors from the shores of Lochindorb and from above Drynachan will be totally trashed by what amounts to an industrial development.
“It is iniquitous that any landowner or wind farm developer can be given the right to destroy an integral part of Scotland’s countryside for their sole financial gain.
“If Tom nan Clach does eventually go ahead, it will impact on other adjacent hills. Already a development company (Wind Ventures) has sought a scoping opinion to construct nine 126m (414ft.) turbines high above the Streens gorge on the River Findhorn, stating the same access will be used as for Tom nan Clach (should that development be given approval).”
She continued: “It is of concern that time and again Scottish Government ministers fail to demonstrate any consistency in their decisions on wind farm developments. The reason given for turning down the proposed Glenkirk wind farm is the impact it would have on wild land. Tom nan Clach is on the same skyline as Glenkirk and inevitably will have a detrimental impact. Also last week Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, refused the Dunbeath wind farm, citing reasons which apply equally to Tom nan Clach. It begs the question ‘why has Tom nan Clach been approved?'”
Scottish Government hypocrisy defied words, she insisted.
“On Thursday (13th) there was outrage at the felling of a tree used by a pair of white tailed sea eagles on an Angus estate. The minister for the Environment, Paul Wheelhouse announced that new measures will be introduced to protect our important protected species.
“Oh really! What about the “acceptable bird kills” associated with wind farms? Tom nan Clach will add to this death toll of golden and sea eagles, hen harrier, osprey, red kite and many others, as well as hundreds of bats known to be attracted to turbines.
“The Minister for Planning, Derek Mackay recently stated that it is “nonsense” to claim that the countryside will be blanketed in wind farms. Today’s decision indicates there is little evidence to support his assertion. A moratorium on wind energy generation is long overdue.”
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