Campaigners against a wind farm in the Monadhliath Mountains have called on the Scottish Government to stay true on its word to protect wild land.
It comes, they have said, as Ministers allow the developers behind the project, RWE, to spin matters out even further through preparing a Wild Land impact assessment for the project.
Supporters of Save The Monadhliath Mountains (SMM) – a broad based coalition of mountaineers, hill-walkers, conservationists, tourism businesses, ornithologists and local communities – are opposed to the building of the wind farm at Allt Duine.
They point out is it located wholly in Wild Land, partly in the National Park and next to a National Scenic Area.
The scheme, currently being considered by the Government, would involve 31 turbines, each at a height of 125 metres being built.
SMM campaigners have said they strongly believe that the development is completely contrary to national and local planning policy as it would have a significant adverse impact on wild land and on the landscape, character and fabric of the national park.
They said the Scottish Government had consulted on a new planning policy which appeared to signal that a map of wild land areas would be linked to policy outcomes for the first time.
However, shortly before the conclusion of this consultation and the announcement of the new policy in June, the Government approved 67 wind turbines at Stronelairg, also in the Monadhliath Mountains,
This was despite objections from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the public opposing the development by a ratio of 15:1.
The Allt Duine development was identified as being located within the SNH Wild Land Map areas and the agency has since stated their formal objection to the development, citing concerns with the impact on that wild land resource.
However, opponents have said the Scottish Government is actively allowing the developers to prepare a further wild land impact assessment for the Allt Duine scheme, in an effort to persuade Ministers to grant consent to the wind farm.
This, they say, is despite it being located wholly on Wild Land and it being two years since conclusion of the public inquiry.
They are now calling on the Government to show Scotland that its promise still carries some meaning by refusing permission for Allt Duine.
Chris Townsend, mountaineer and spokesperson for the SMM campaign said: “The Scottish Ministers have promised to strengthen the status and protection of Wild Land in policy, and have spent a lot of time and money on devising this policy and in updating the mapping of Wild Land.
“However, all we have seen since is a very worrying reluctance on the part of the Government to actually implement their own policy.
“The decision to grant permission to Stronelairg was rushed through against expert advice and before the public could have their say.
“Now they seem desperate to do anything to spin out the Allt Duine case presumably in the hope of wearing down the opposition or hoping that it will just go away.
“All this leads us to suspect whether the Government’s policy on Wild Land is all just political spin designed to hold off campaigners against ludicrous proposals until they are eventually granted permission.
“The project was assessed comprehensively at a public inquiry that ended some two years ago.
“What we are seeing here is a complete abuse of the planning process by Ministers seemingly all too keen to play into the hands of powerful energy developers.
“We have heard enough words from the Government, now we want to see action.
” Turning down the Allt Duine development would be a strong signal to Scotland that they take their pledge to protect our cherished Wild Land seriously.
“RWE’s proposed wild land impact assessment is futile. It is simply not possible to sufficiently mitigate the effects of a 31 turbine wind farm on Wild Land at the edge of the Cairngorms.
“If built, the scheme would be visible from about 100 square miles of the national park.”
Helen McDade, Head of Policy at the John Muir Trust, said: “The Government needs to show leadership and refuse this application without further ado.”
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