A campaign has been launched to save the Loch Ness area from being overlooked by more than 500 wind turbines.
A new pressure group points out that 527 turbines have now been built, approved or are in the planning process within a 22-mile radius of Loch Ness.
Save Loch Ness went online 10 days ago with a petition to the Scottish Government to have a National Scenic Area designated to halt the construction of more turbines.
Spokesman Jim Treasurer, of Fort William, said: “The area needs to be protected.
“It’s part of brand Scotland. Tourists come here for Loch Ness and the Great Glen. It is one of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty.
“If you think of Scotland there are certain things you think of – Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Bridge and Loch Ness.
“It’s a given that it’s a prominent area. It’s certainly the number one site in the Highlands. Why would you build on it?
“People say these turbines won’t damage that brand.
“Americans might come once, but they won’t come back again if the wind turbines are put up. This isn’t just important for Loch Ness, but the Inverness area too.”
The latest international figures from VisitBritain show the Inverness area regularly attracts more than 200,000 overseas tourists a year.
The campaign, started by local group Friends of the Great Glen, has gained support from around the world, with people from Turkey, Australia and the USA already signing the petition.
The petition, which will close on April 23, had 509 signatures as Highland News Group went to press.
Mr Treasurer added: “It’s one big industrial site with turbines and thousands of tonnes of concrete.
“There will be substations and power lines. There will be a massive industrial scheme on the Great Glen. It’s the least suitable area to build in Scotland.
“We all love renewables but they need to be in the right place. People don’t realise the scale.
“I would have them all at sea, way out of sight, where they don’t bother anyone.”
A National Scenic Area’s five main qualities are setting and physical grandeur, glacial landforms, natural beauty and tranquillity, cultural heritage and man-made resources.
There are currently 40 areas with the protected status, including Loch Lomond, Wester Ross and Glen Affric.
The Save Loch Ness campaign group believes Loch Ness and the Great Glen could be defined as meeting the same criteria.
The petition also calls for Loch Ness and the Great Glen to be made a priority application as a World Heritage Site.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Our policy on onshore wind farms aims to strike a careful balance between utilising Scotland’s significant renewable energy resources whilst protecting our finest scenic landscapes and natural heritage.
“Scottish Planning Policy requires planning authorities to prepare spatial frameworks to help guide wind energy development to suitable locations.
“This includes identifying National Parks and National Scenic Areas where wind farms will not be acceptable and identifying areas of significant protection where development is unlikely to be acceptable.
“Where wind farms are inappropriately located and don’t meet strict planning guidelines on matters such as landscape impact, cumulative impact and impact on residential amenity, they are rejected.
“Renewable energy development has a pivotal role in aiding the delivery of Scotland’s 2020 targets, making a significant contribution to sustainable economic growth as well as helping to cut harmful emissions and mitigate climate change.”
For more information visit www.savelochness.com or to sign the petition visit www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01564
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