Highland Perthshire’s “fragile” economy could be ripped apart if a proposed windfarm gets the go-ahead, the Scottish Government has been warned.
Tourism businesses in Rannoch are fighting plans by Talladh a Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd, which wants to build 24 wind turbines, each 125 metres tall, together with wide access tracks, buildings and infrastructure, on moorland between Loch Rannoch and Loch Ericht.
MSP Murdo Fraser has urged his colleagues to reject the plans, saying it would set a precedent that could harm other beauty spots across the country.
The battle against the bid is also being supported by the Perth-based Mountaineering Council for Scotland, which calls the area “one of Scotland’s remaining areas of wild land”.
Mr Fraser said: “Rannoch Moor is one of Scotland’s most unique landscapes and any attempt to build massive windfarms on it should be stopped.
“Scottish Natural Heritage has produced a ‘Wild Land Map’, which the Scottish Government has told us will indicate those areas of Scotland which are unsuitable for wind turbines.
“This planning application gives the SNP Government a real opportunity to show that they are serious about protecting wild land.
“However, if successful, this application will fatally undermine the Wild Land Map and endanger other beauty spots across Scotland.”
Local businesses fear that if the landscape is blighted by the turbines, the thousands of visitors who flock to the region to enjoy the views will be put off.
Rose La Terriere, of Dunalastair Estate Holiday Cottages, said: “Visitors come from Scotland and overseas for the tranquillity and unspoilt landscape of this glen of Rannoch.
“We are like an island or oasis, but surrounded by hills rather than water.
“The proposed windfarm will be seen from the slopes of Schiehallion and from very many others of our hills and from the south side road of Loch Rannoch and many popular paths.
“I sincerely believe that the unique offering of our tourism business and others in the glen will be destroyed by this development. Given that farming is fading in glens like ours, any loss of tourists would destroy the community.”
Louise Hardwick, who runs Liarn Farm Holiday Cottages, is also fearful about what the windfarm would mean. She said: “I can see no reason for visitors to travel to such a remote area simply to see a windfarm from every viewpoint around the loch, including Ben Alder, Schiehallion and other Munros.
“This is a special area of scenic beauty which attracts visitors from around the globe; they, in turn, maintain the tourism employment and economy of the area.”
David Gibson, Mountaineering Council for Scotland chief officer, urged the Scottish Government to refuse planning consent.
He said: “The wild lands of areas like Rannoch are exactly what make Scotland so special for visitors, whether they want to walk, climb, cycle or simply relax.
“To squander this superb national asset would damage our country’s reputation as a destination and the fragile local economy by driving visitors elsewhere.”
A spokeswoman for Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd, said the project would not affect tourism.
“Having worked closely with the community throughout the development of our proposals, we are pleased with the positive response we have received from local residents to date,” she said.
“Assessments have found that our plans will have no impact upon visitor numbers to the area and are instead set to bring a number of benefits, including a positive contribution to the regional and local economy.
“I would encourage local residents to visit the project website – www.tab-windfarm.org – to review the professional assessments, access accurate information and read about the benefits that the plans will bring to the area.”
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