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Charity appeals for donations after windfarm challenge setback

A conservation charity which is fighting plans for a massive windfarm on the hills above Loch Ness has lost a bid to have its costs capped ahead of a court action.

The John Muir Trust has launched a legal challenge to SSE’s plans for a windfarm at Stronelairg near Fort Augustus, comprising 67 turbines.

The development will be in the Monadhliath Mountains, an area which was designated as wild land by the Scottish Government earlier this year.

But today, the trust’s bid for a protective expenses order was turned down by Lord Phillip at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The trust is now considering its next step ahead of a judicial review in December.

However it is also appealing for donations to allow the case to continue.

Stuart Brooks, chief executive for the John Muir Trust said: “Naturally, we are disappointed with this decision.

“We do not have access to the resources of either the Scottish Government or SSE, the energy giant which stands to make hundreds of millions of pounds from the Stronelairg development.

“Today’s decision suggests that charities in Scotland will find it extremely difficult to obtain a measure of protection from very high legal costs when bringing environmental cases in the public interest.”

The trust appeal for help was backed yesterday by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS).

The chief officer David Gibson said: “Anyone interested in the functioning of a democratic planning process will see the logic of why there should be a judicial review, and why a charity acting in the public interest should have its legal costs protected.

Mr Gibson said that the lack of an expenses cap meant it was “David the charitable trust against the Goliaths of the Scottish Government and SSE in the courts”.

The Stronelairg windfarm was given permission by the Scottish Government, in June this year, despite an objection from Scottish Natural Heritage.

If it is built, it will be the largest onshore array in the Highlands.

The scheme, which will be on Garrogie Estate, owned by Charles Connell, is one of several planned in the area.

An SSE spokeswoman said: “SSE welcomes today’s decision. We are confident in the strength and viability of the Stronelairg proposal and will continue to respond to the legal challenge through the appropriate process.”