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SNH criticised in Highland windfarm row

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been accused of submitting an “inadequate and lazy” response to a planning application for a highly controversial windfarm in Inverness-shire.

More than 1,200 people have lodged comments about Edinburgh-based developer wpd Scotland’s plans to build six 392ft turbines on the slopes of Beinn Mhor, near Tomich – with the majority objecting to the scheme.

The SNH response points out that the proposed development would “have some effect on the appreciation of the special qualities of the Glen Affric National Scenic Area”.

But it states: “We consider that this particular development can be accommodated.”

Glyn Freeman, of Inverurie, who holidays in the area, said he was “deeply concerned” by this response.

He said: “I visit this area on an annual basis because of the natural beauty and the array of historic buildings, monuments, natural beauty, not just in the Glen Affric glen, but also the area on Beinn Mhor, up to Cougie and Guisachan/Hilton area.

“This area is outstanding in its uniqueness and unique in its importance with beautiful traditional forest mixing with beautiful ancient ruins and an unparalleled peace.

“I am extremely concerned by the SNH planning application response, which appears to me to be inadequate and frankly lazy.”

He added that he would question whether it fulfilled the government agency’s remit.

“SNH is supposed to look after our environment for future generations. I just don’t think they are doing their job,” said Mr Freeman.

The agency’s operations manager, Steve North, denied this.

Responding to Mr Freeman, he wrote: “I am confident that we have given sufficient scrutiny to the information provided with the application and have adequately assessed the significance of the impacts in line with our policies and approach towards renewables.

“We agree that there are important national interests in the vicinity of this proposal but, whilst there will undoubtedly be some impacts, we genuinely do not believe they will be as great as some may fear.”

He added that the agency rarely objected to development plans unless there were “clear and substantial impacts of national importance”.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Aird and Loch Ness, said: “This is a controversial application, both locally and at Highland level and feelings are running high.”

The developer could not be contacted for comment yesterday, but previously said it was good that people in the area were discussing the project and that it had received a lot of support from individuals and groups.