Conservationists have reacted with fury at the latest windfarm proposal on the hills above Loch Ness – making it nine projects in the planning, or being constructed, for the iconic area.
The 14-turbine development planned by energy firm Coriolis Energy on the Dell Estate in Whitebridge, near Fort Augustus, would, according to campaigners, “continue the devastation and industrialisation” of the area, claiming it is impacting on the world-famous Monadhliath Mountains.
Lyndsey Ward, an independent Highland anti-windfarm protester from Kiltarlity in Inverness-shire, said such projects were “ruining” the mountain range, regarded as among the most scenic in the world.
New tracks would have to be created on the Monadhliath Mountains to provide access to the windfarm, which is close to the reservoir serving SSE’s Glendoe hydro scheme.
The turbines would also be next to a site where the energy giant has earmarked a 67-turbine windfarm at Stronelairg.
Miss Ward said: “The whole area is being trashed by monstrous turbines. When will enough be enough?
“Nowhere is sacred now, and this latest application is just an addition to others in the area which have been approved.
“I am lost for words at how bad this is for the Highlands. So many tourists are now saying they will never return because the wild land which Scotland is famous for is being devastated by this industrialisation.”
She said: “I feel local businesses in the tourism industry are already feeling the impact of this.”
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) has said that the Monadhliath mountains were “precious” and among the most scenic in Scotland, adding they and should be protected from what it said would be industrialisation on a massive scale.
And Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust conservation charity, also criticised the increasing number of windfarms in the Monadhliath area.
She said: “The Trust will look carefully at the detail of the Dell proposal in the context of the cumulative impact of a flurry of development around the Monadhliath Mountains and Loch Ness, which includes the recently consented 67-turbine Stronelairg Wind Farm.
“The industrialisation of this landscape began, ironically, with a well-designed hydro scheme at Glendoe, which the Trust at the time commended as an example of an environmentally sensitive renewables project.
“Unfortunately, some developers have since used the existence of the Glendoe Hydro Scheme as a Trojan horse to justify other applications, with the result that the character of the entire area is now being transformed.”
The new turbines would be 426ft high and the developer claims they would have the potential to generate a total of 42MW of electricity.
Developer Coriolis Energy had originally wanted to erect 22 turbines, but altered its plans following concerns about the visual impact of the scheme.
It initially reduced the number to 16, but has now removed a further two turbines.
They claim construction would take 18 months, with a maximum of 90 people working on the project.
The plans will now be scrutinised by Highland Council and other interested groups, including local community councils, Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Water.
Harry Malyon, development director for Coriolis Energy, said: “We hope that people will look at the detail of the application. We have taken a great deal of care over the design to minimise the effects.
“We welcome the planning process as it allows people to make their own minds up on the application.”
When the plans were on display in 2012, residents welcomed the reduction in the number of turbines.
The application brings the number of consented or planned windfarms in the Loch Ness area to nine.
Earlier this year anti-turbine campaigners warned that the high level of applications for windfarms in the Highlands could overload the national grid and cause blackouts.
Monadhliath is a range of mountains in Scotland which, in Gaelic, and means “grey mountains”.
Running in a northeast to southwest direction, the mountains lie on the western side of Strathspey, to the west of the Cairngorms and to the south east of Loch Ness.
The mountains are within the Highland Council area, and the south and east fringes are within the Cairngorms National Park.
The high point of the range is Càrn Dearg, at 945 metres (3,100 ft), located 24 kilometres (15 mi) south of Inverness.
Other Munros in Monadhliath are A’Chailleach (930 metres (3,050 ft)), Geal Chàrn (926 metres (3,038 ft)), and Càrn Sgulain (920 metres (3,020 ft)). The Monadhliath Mountains are designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
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