Campaigners have backed calls for a new law they claim would give Scotland’s three regional parks greater protection from “industrialisation” caused by the building of wind farms.
The Save Your Regional Park group said special provisions would have been included when legislation was being drawn up for regional parks had wind farms been as common as they are now.
Chairman Nigel Willis said a move by SNP MSP Christine Grahame to introduce a Private Member’s Bill by November that would result in the doubling of the Pentland Hills Regional Park south of Edinburgh could also lead to greater protection for the other two regional parks, Clyde Muirshiel, near Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire and Lomond Hills in Fife.
Campaigners say places of natural beauty would be spoiled by wind turbines and Mr Willis claimed more than 300 wind turbine applications for in or around the three parks’ boundaries have been considered or are being planned.
Regional parks are areas for leisure activities close to an urban centre, are usually funded by neighbouring councils and do not have the same planning restrictions as Scotland’s two national parks, Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
Mr Willis said such a Private Members Bill would “conserve the Pentlands effectively for future generations but should be widened to include protection from industrialisation, otherwise nothing has really been gained”.
He said: “If wind power station development had been in existence when the regional parks were created, there is little doubt that legislation would have been incorporated to keep the parks free of such industrialisation, but that hasn’t happened.”
He said the organisation has been actively opposing wind farms for eight years.
He added: “Of the three regional parks, Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park has taken the brunt of developers’ attempts to turn the park into an industrial estate with proposals for over 300 giant turbines in or just outside the park.
“Of these proposals – excluding small turbines – 28 turbines have been constructed in the park, 15 just outside and there is a current application for 10 more, with five more at the scoping stage.
“If we want to conserve our regional parks for future generations, something needs to be done before it is too late and the present generation of MSPs will go down in history as the people who allowed our wonderful regional parks to be destroyed.”
The group has been opposing a planning application for Inverclyde Wind Farm, near Corlic Hill, Greenock, to construct a 10-turbine wind farm.
It is understood there are about 20 planning applications connected to the Pentland Hllls and surrounding areas lodged.
Campaigners the Penicuik Environment Protection Association previously opposed a planned wind farm for Mount Lothian that would have been visible from the Pentland Hills but it was later withdrawn.
The separate campaign has now been set up to extend Pentlands Hills park, which currently starts just south of Edinburgh and covers parts of Midlothian and West Lothian, into Lanarkshire.
The plan could benefit homeowners and businesses, but could lead to development restrictions.
The original idea was the regional park would cover the whole of the Pentland Hills range, extending further into West Lothian and then into South Lanarkshire, down the A70 towards Carnwath, and down the A702 into Scottish Borders past Dolphinton. Over 600,000 people visit the Pentland Hills every year.
Ms Grahame is consulting with councils and other interested parties on whether a proposed extension should cover the whole range of the Pentland Hills. Maintenance costs would also be assessed.
The Friends of the Pentlands group said the regional park covers only about 45% of the Pentland Hills and said “the extension to the boundary could ensure better protection of the area, provided adequate funding was made available”.
A spokesman for the Friends group said the south-west Pentlands has landscape completely different from the north in that it is more open moorland, almost wild land”. He added: “We would not wish to see this change.”
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