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Protest walk over wind farms bid

Campaigners are urging councillors to stop the construction of wind farms in an area of unspoilt countryside amid fears its beauty could soon be destroyed by a “sea of turbines”.

Farmers and their workers are expected to be joined by land owners, artists and musicians as residents come together on Sunday in a march between the villages of Moniaive and Corsock, Dumfries and Galloway, to protest at the plans by E.ON.

Save Loch Urr (SLU) says the energy firm wants to construct 50 wind turbines – up to 418ft (127 metres) high with 295ft blades – covering 6000 acres of unspoilt countryside around the loch, damaging the community, wildlife, the beauty of the area and the local economy, including tourism.

It is claimed the company wants to build 50 turbines – in addition to 23 already approved for Blackcraig – adjacent to the proposed Loch Urr development. Campaigners say that, according to E.ON’s scoping report, the development at Loch Urr will cover more than 5900 acres.

Caroline Pridham, the group’s spokeswoman, said: “Within a 10-mile radius of the loch, nine industrial scale wind farms are being proposed by seven different wind farm developers, with a total of more than 200 giant turbines. Many of the proposed sites are adjacent to each other, which will result in a ‘sea of turbines’.”

She said energy bill payers across Scotland and the UK were expected to pay higher electricity bills while the wind-farm developers and a handful of landowners “rake in millions of pounds in subsidies each year”.

Ms Pridham added: “We will be marching around Loch Urr to highlight that, although we are a small and widely dispersed rural community, we will not be bullied or bribed.

“We will fight to protect our landscape, our health, our local economies and our way of life.”

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said it was vital such renewable energy projects, which were subjected to rigorous environmental scrutiny, were still pursued .

He said: “Wind power in ­Scotland generates the equivalent of 22% of our electricity needs. It ploughed more than £1.3 billion into the Scottish economy last year, and saves more than four million tonnes of CO² every year, according to UK Government figures.

“Moving away from dirty, polluting fossil fuels to low carbon generation, such as renewables, is vital for our environment.”

Mr Stuart said wind-farm ­developers had to adhere to robust planning laws that demand detailed and lengthy reports into the extent of the project’s impact on the local environment, including on birds and natural habitats. “Only those wind farm projects that are deemed suitable will be granted permission,” he added.

Squirrels, otters, whooper swans, red kites, barn owls, hen harriers, goosanders, peregrines, and brown long-eared bats are based locally.

An E.ON spokesman said it sought to work with communities where it was developing renewable projects “to take on board their views.” He added: “Loch Urr is in the early stages of the planning process and we will continue to keep the community informed as the project progresses.”