Fears that plans for a 14-turbine wind farm on the Ben Wyvis range above Garve have “sneaked in under the radar” has prompted objectors to urge others to speak up against it before a deadline next week.
Opponents claim the Carn Gorm Wind Farm will be clearly visible from several communities from miles around and it will help transform the scenic tourist route between the Black Isle and Ullapool into what one critic dubbed “Turbine Alley”.
Locals, concerned about the lack of publicity surrounding the proposal, contacted the Journal this week urging others to voice their opposition.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has also expressed concern that the application has slipped by without attracting much public attention because it was lodged just before Christmas.
It fears time is running out for people to comment on the “large industrial scale wind farm” and says it is “astonished” a developer would even consider siting a wind farm inside Ben Wyvis Special Landscape Area.
However, the developer behind the plan has claimed in its supporting statement that although the wind farm will have some visual effects, the landscape is considered capable of accommodating the proposed wind farm.
PI Renewables Limited is seeking permission for 14 115m turbines, as well as a sub-station, borrow pits, 10.5 kilometres of access tracks and a site entrance.
The site lies north of Loch Garve above Strathgarve Forest on the south-western end of the Wyvis range.
The company estimates 60 workers will be involved in construction over a 14-month period and it plans to give £220,000 a year to a community benefit scheme.
The company’s supporting statement lodged on Highland Council’s ePlanning website says efforts were made to reduce the visual impact of the turbines and redesigns have resulted in a significant reduction in turbine numbers and heights, to ensure a better fit with the scale of the landform.
It states: “The settlements of Gorstan and Tarvie are expected to experience significant visual effects from some residential properties with open aspects to the proposed wind farm. Visibility will be readily apparent from the garden ground and access road, however it is unlikely that it will be possible for views to occur from the internal living spaces of the residential properties in Tarvie. At Garve the potential for views from internal properties is confined to only a few residential properties.
“A key consideration in the assessment has been the relationship between the proposed wind farm and the Ben Wyvis range and considering the views from the range out over the surrounding landscapes, as well as of it.
“The proposed wind farm does not affect middle range views of the Ben Wyvis range as seen from the south-east and north-west. Views from Little Wyvis and An Cabar on the Ben Wyvis range were found to be significantly affected as a result of the closer range of the proposed turbines and the sensitivity of the Special Landscape Area.”
It states the cumulative effect of the wind farm is moderated by the presence of larger and collectively more extensive wind farms at Corriemoillie and Lochluichart.
Chris Hamilton, who lives in Achanalt and has lodged a formal objection, told the Journal that this latest wind farm would be a “blot on the landscape” which would be visible from Garve and many other surrounding communities, including the Achnasheen area.
Mr Hamilton is concerned about the lack of public attention the Carn Gorm proposal has attracted compared to the five-turbine Woodlands proposal.
“It is for a greater number of turbines and visible in all directions since it is perched on the side of Ben Wyvis with blade tips 115 metres above the ground,” he said.
The Mountaineering Club of Scotland’s chief officer, David Gibson, said: “It appears Ben Wyvis – a superb mountain which welcomes visitors arriving from the south – has become an unfortunate magnet for wind farm developers.
“ A previous bid to build a wind farm in this area was withdrawn in the face of local and national opposition, and we urge PI renewables to do the same.
“However, they lodged a formal planning application just before Christmas. The timing may well have meant it slipped by some interested parties, but we would remind people now that the deadline for objections is February 7, so if you want to oppose this totally inappropriate application, you need to act now.”
One Ross-shire resident, who asked not to be named, said the Carn Gorm application had not attracted as much attention as Woodlands, but is “possibly a greater threat to this, the most striking and iconic mountain of Ross-shire”. He is also concerned there are further plans to “‘fill the gap”’ between east and west with even more turbines.
“This would ensure the complete southern slopes of Ben Wyvis would be covered in wind turbines. Add to these, the turbines at Novar, Fairburn, Corriemollie and Lochluichart, plus all associated ‘extensions’, and all the single turbines scattered in between, and the road north from Inverness to Ullapool must surely be changed to ‘Turbine Alley’.”
One of the 10 public objections has been posted on behalf of a local couple. It states the application site overlaps with a substantial area of land in their ownership and there has been no consultation or permission given.
They are also concerned about potential damage to their private water supply, the significant impact on their lifestyle and their property value.
SEPA has indicated it is objecting to the application due to the current lack of information and the local forestry officer has lodged a holding objection pending confirmation that woodland removal can be avoided.
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