Campaigners have urged a power company to withdraw plans for a hugely controversial wind farm on the edge of Britain’s largest national park in the face of overwhelming opposition.
The Save Monadhliath Mountains campaign believes the 31-turbine development close to the Cairngorms National Park would cause irreparable damage to the landscape.
It also claims the odds are now stacked against the Allt Duine application, and it is destined to be “dispatched to the waste basket” when ministers decide its fate.
The RWE npower renewables project is also opposed by three statutory consultees – the national park authority, Highland Council and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
Campaigners told an earlier public inquiry that its 410ft turbines would be visible from 100 square miles of the park, including the summits of three of Scotland’s best known Munros – Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm and Braeriach.
The proposed development, near Kincraig outside Aviemore, is opposed by mountaineers, hill walkers, conservationists, tourism businesses and local communities.
The campaign also claims it is unlikely to succeed in the wake of a decision by the Scottish Government to reject another controversial project close to the park.
The 26-turbine Glenkirk scheme, north of Allt Duine, was turned down on wild land grounds and on the basis of the effect it would have on the national park.
Chris Townsend, spokesman for SMM, said: “It is clear that Allt Duine is a speculative application that took advantage of the Scottish Government’s political commitment to renewable energy.
“Everyone is convinced that a wind farm at Allt Duine would be a step a too far for the beautiful scenery of the Cairngorms National Park and the Monadhliath Mountains. I hope that RWE will do the decent thing and withdraw the application immediately.”
The group said cabling, roads and turbines associated with the proposal would have an “irrevocable impact” on the landscape, wildlife and ornithology of the park.
The report from the public local inquiry was passed to ministers in July, and anti-wind farm campaigners regard the forthcoming decision as a test of the Scottish Government’s commitment to protect wild land areas.
In its letter to the development, the SMM campaign claims that “if it is an environmentally responsible company” it has no choice but to accept that the application will not receive approval.
It also points out that the entire site lies inside the boundaries of the “Monadhliath Core Wild Land Area” proposed by Scottish National Heritage, the government’s own environment agency.
Mr Townsend wrote: “…the campaign hopes that RWE, if it is a responsible company, will do the decent thing and withdraw the application immediately. It could only restore its national and local credentials by doing so.
“As RWE now fully appreciates, a wind farm at Allt Duine would be a catastrophe for the beautiful scenery of the park and the Monadhliath Mountains, and contrary to national and local planning policy.”
Jenny Gascoigne, development manager for RWE npower renewables, said the firm had no intention of withdrawing the scheme.
She added that it was not sensible to draw comparisons between the Allt Duine project and Glenkirk, as All Duine was not in a “Special Landscape Area” and had only limited visibility form the A9 road – the main road to Inverness and the Highlands from central Scotland.
Ms Gascoigne said the site was identified as a preferred area for major onshore wind development in Highland Council’s renewable strategy in 2006, and also said that a ridge line prevent views of the project site from the areas of the national park closes to it.
The company added in its letter to SMM that Kincraig Community Council voted to support the proposal, and other nearby community councils were neutral on the issue.