The Scottish Government has turned down controversial plans for a major windfarm on the hills above Bonar Bridge in the Highlands.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing said the 34 proposed Glenmorie turbines would have an unacceptable impact on the landscape, including wild land.
Mountaineers and campaigners who opposed the plans welcomed the minister’s decision.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which joined the John Muir Trust and local councils in fighting the proposals, said it was hoping for a similar decision on the Allt Duine proposal in the Monadhliath Mountains.
Chief officer David Gibson said: “We are very relieved that the right decision has been made on a deeply wrong-headed scheme.
“We objected to the development and participated in the public local inquiry due to its highly intrusive visual impact on some of Scotland’s finest mountains and wild land.
“I would like to thank the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, [British Mountaineering Council] and our members who supported our efforts to oppose the development.
“Like many other objectors, we are hoping for a similar decision on the Allt Duine windfarm proposal which, if approved, would be a major industrial development on wild land and adjacent to the Cairngorms national park.
“The Allt Duine PLI took place about nine months prior to that for Glenmorie, so we think a decision by John Swinney MSP must be imminent.”
The MCofS said it does not oppose onshore windfarms and has only objected to around one in 20 proposals. It fights schemes where they threaten our rapidly diminishing areas of wild land and would harm Scotland’s mountain landscapes, it added.
Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, said: “We are delighted that this development has been refused.
“It was a wholly inappropriate site, which would have impacted on an area recently confirmed as a wild land area. This was an unsuitable development that should never have been brought forward in the first place.
“It would have destroyed an area of wild land, had a damaging effect on peat land and could have had harmful long-term economic consequences for the area.
“Councillors from all political parties came together to object to this giant development. There was also strong opposition from the local community. It would have been a travesty of democracy if this development had been given the green light.
“The refusal today by the Scottish Government sends a strong message to developers that it is inappropriate to target areas now recognised in Scottish planning policy as nationally important for their wild land qualities.
“And it is a welcome indication that the Scottish Government is delivering on its commitment in the new national planning framework to continue its strong protection for our wildest landscapes. This is a victory for those who want to see Scotland’s wild land protected against large-scale industrial development.
“We are therefore delighted that the Scottish Government has rejected it.”
The view was echoed by the Save the Monadhliath Mountain group, which is fighting the Allt Duine proposals for a windfarm near the edge of the Cairngorms national park.
Former president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and spokesperson for the SMM campaign, Chris Townsend, said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has rejected this application which would have devastated a landscape designated as an area of protected wild land.
“Ministers have indicated their willingness to protect our wild landscapes and now need to show consistency by rejecting the Allt Duine application, which would be sited close to the Cairngorms national park boundary and within wild land.”
The MCofS said the Glenmorie turbines would have been built on the slopes of Carn an Lochan, Clach nam Ban and Carn Cas nan Gabhar and the windfarm would have come within 150m of the eastern boundary of a large area identified by Scottish Natural Heritage as a search area for wild land.
The John Muir Trust pointed out the development would have been visible from the designated national scenic area around the Dornoch Firth, and from the slopes of the munro Ben Wyvis, a special landscape area.
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