Campaigners are claiming victory in the latest stage of their fight against developers who want to build a windfarm in the Highlands.
Talladh a Bheithe Wind Farm, a subsidiary of a Dutch company, has asked for a six-month stay in the planning process for its proposal to build 24 turbines on the hillside of Rannoch Forest.
Opponents, including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, have dubbed the plans a windfarm too far and say it would be visible from many of the munros around the site, including Schiehallion, Buachaille Etive Mòr and Ben Alder, as well as from the main A82 road across Rannoch Moor and the West Highland railway line.
They also claim the windfarm could kill a golden eagle every 19 months.
Keep Rannoch Wild, which is supported in its campaign by the John Muir Trust and the MCofS, said the developers, a wholly owned British subsidiary of Netherlands-based Eventus, have asked Perth and Kinross Council for a six-month delay.
They are calling on the company to abandon the plans altogether. David Gibson, MCofS chief officer, said: “This scheme is fundamentally wrong and nothing can change that. The developers should show respect for Scotland’s people, planning policies, wild lands and wildlife and abandon this harmful proposal now.
“Scotland is succeeding in achieving its renewables targets and this windfarm is unnecessary. There is no reason to sacrifice a huge area of wild land with such outstanding landscape qualities just so the landowners and developers can make huge profits.”
The scheme is in an area officially designated by Scottish Natural Heritage as wild land which Scottish Government planning guidance says should be better protected from development.
A total of 958 formal objections were made to the original application to build the turbines, each 125m tall. The development would require the building of 12.8km of wide access tracks, plus buildings and other infrastructure.
KRW has been leading local opposition on behalf of residents and businesses whose landscapes, lifestyles and livelihoods it says may be at risk.
Douglas Wynn of KRW said: “The powerful campaign against this misguided proposal is clearly having an impact.
“We are absolutely committed to carrying on our work to protect Rannoch and ensure that it is never blighted with an industrial windfarm.
“The Talladh a Bheithe proposals are extraordinarily poor and attracted a huge number of objections which pointed out many fundamental flaws. Fiddling round the edges will make no difference to a project which a poll showed is opposed by three-quarters of residents.
“If the applicants insist on pushing ahead regardless they will find that opposition will simply get stronger. We hope and expect that if the scheme is finally put before planners they will make it clear that it is completely unwelcome and unwanted.”
The campaigners said the turbines would be visible from more than 30 munros.
Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, said: “The Trust believes that this development would be a ‘stab in the heart’ of Scotland’s wild land.
“We are pleased to see that the developer has been forced to think again about their submission. However we do not believe it is acceptable that they are given a six-month extension to improve their application in the light of massive opposition.
“We would call on them to recognise the deep damage their proposal would cause to this iconic part of Scotland and withdraw their application now.”
Earlier this year, the developers said it had undertaken more than six years of studies, with a multi-disciplinary, highly experienced UK based development team to produce a carefully balanced project, designing the wind farm in a natural bowl of the estate – minimising and avoiding views of the turbines from residential areas around Loch Rannoch.
“The proposals have been prepared to ensure minimal impact upon the surrounding landscape ensuring significant distance between the turbines and local landmarks such as Schiehallion –18km,” a spokesperson said.
“The plans have been subject to extensive community consultation, including the formation of a community liaison group, to ensure that local residents are fully aware of the detail contained in the application.
“Having worked closely with the local community throughout the consultation for our proposals we are encouraged by the positive response we have received from local residents to date.
“Our proposals would make a valuable contribution towards Scottish and UK Government targets for energy from renewable sources and also provide a range of community benefits.
“Should our proposals be approved, we will also offer the unique opportunity for community ownership, in addition to a community benefit fund. We are currently assisting and encouraging the community to explore ideas as to how to establish a co-operative model with us.
“It is disappointing that inaccurate information regarding the proposals is being promoted and we would strongly advise local residents to visit the project website to review the professional assessments and accurate representations of our plans, and to read about the benefits that they will bring to the local area.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the local community and key stakeholders to discuss the opportunities for co-ownership and community benefit in further detail.”
More details of the campaign against the development are on the Keep Rannoch Wild website.