The National Trust for Scotland is backing a campaign against a hugely controversial wind farm that critics claim will destroy the character of an important area of wild land.
The country’s largest conservation charity is contacting its 320,000 members to ask them to back a legal bid by the John Muir Trust to overturn the decision to approve a “city-sized” project in the Monadhliath mountains.
The 67-turbine project south east of Fort Augustus was approved by the Scottish Government despite objections from its own advisors.
The JMT, the wild land charity, has lodged a petition at the Court of Session in Edinburgh asking for a judicial review of the decision, with a hearing expected to take place early next year.
Kate Mavor, chief executive of the NTS, said the wind farm would be visible from large swatches of the Cairngorms National Park.
She added: “We are not opposed to renewable energy developments by any means, so long as they are suitably located, are proportionate and subject to public scrutiny.
“We think there are serious questions to be answered about the way the Stronelairg wind farm was approved and what it might mean for Scotland’s wild lands.”
Terry Levinthal, director of conservations projects, said the 440ft turbines would cover an area the size of Inverness in the Monadhliaths, close to a designated Special Area of Conservation.
He added that their construction would also require thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete to be placed on top of important peatlands and their eco-systems. “These act as a natural carbon ‘sink’, tying up greenhouse gasses that could otherwise accelerate climate change,” said Mr Levinthal.
“We find it particularly disturbing that the Government’s own agency, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and the Cairngorms National Park Authority, both objected to the development yet their protests were ignored.
“It has also been suggested that SNH’s efforts to have Stronelairg added to the Wild Land Areas Map (areas where there is a presumption against development) were stymied.”
The NTS said the precedent set by the approval of the wind farm was “deeply concerning” for the conservation of Scotland’s wild land.
It is contacting its membership to suggest they could help by writing to ministers and MSPs, and by making donations to the JMT’s legal fund.
The trust’s request for a “protective expenses order” was refused by the court which means it could be liable for the costs of the Scottish Government and Scottish and Southern Energy, the company behind the project, if the action is unsuccessful.
John Hutchison, chairman of the JMT, said ministers had made ground-breaking progress by adopting the new wild land areas map but the approval of Stronelairg threatened the “industrialisation” of mountain areas.
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