Mountaineers claim the tourism potential of the remote north-west of Scotland would be damaged by a proposed 20 wind turbine intruding in the vast and open views from and of Sutherland’s iconic mountains.
But the developers insist objectors are exaggerating the impact and deny their plans for Caplich in Sutherland would ruin the Coigach-Assynt National Scenic Area (NSA).
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) believes Muirhall Energy’s plan for the turbines, each up to 430 feet in height, is a wind farm too far.
MCofS Chief Officer, David Gibson said: ”
” Time after time we see developers simply cut and paste the same out of date information and erroneous conclusions concerning tourism impacts from one proposal to the next. There is a complete lack of up to date and impartial research. Mountaineering alone is worth at least £600 million a year to the highland economy, and our research indicates that 40 per cent of respondents would avoid areas with wind farms.
“The area available to people who wish to avoid vistas of wind farms is shrinking rapidly; this development would reduce that further, discouraging more visits by those seeking to experience wild, open mountain landscapes.”
But Peter Marshall Muirhall Energy’s project manager said:
“Caplich wind farm is not within the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area. Those parts of the NSA which will have visibility of the wind farm include the summits of Ben More Assynt, Canisp, Cul Mor and Suilven. All of these summits are more than 10km distant from the nearest turbine.
“The wind farm site is immediately between two very large forestry plantations, both more than 3,000 acres and characterised by straight boundaries and a uniform population of Sitka spruce. In addition to this, the presence of other man made features including cultivated grazing land, tracks, roads and electricity lines mean that the wind farm will be seen within a working landscape.”
He said the company had worked hard to reduce the visibility of the wind farm, cutting turbine numbers from 34 to 20.
Meanwhile the application from the German developers the wpd group to build six turbines on the edge of Glen Affric will now be examined by ministers, because Highland Council hasn’t yet managed to consider it.
Councillors had been due to visit the site on the slopes of Beinn Mhor, near Tomich this week but couldn’t because of bad weather. There had been several earlier delays. The application was first lodged last May.
Kyla Donaldson wpd Project Manager, said it had been wpd’s preference for the Highland Council to determine this application and had been “disappointed that the committee was unable to make its most recent visit to the site and come to its decision.”
But she said the company felt it had to appeal to the Scottish Government’s Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) on the grounds of non-determination because of the “the very tight timescales we have for connecting the wind turbines to the electricity grid.”
The appeal had been validated.