Outdoors enthusiasts and conservationists have sent an open letter to Scotland’s First Minister in a last-minute plea to stop the erection of a wind farm the size of Perth being built in one of Scotland’s most scenic wild landscapes.
The protesters have written to Nicola Sturgeon ahead of the long-awaited planning decision by Scottish ministers on the proposed Allt Duine development in the Cairngorms, which is expected any day now.
The controversial 31-turbine development is to be sited wholly within a government-designated Wild Land area in the Monadhliath mountains, near Kincraig, Aviemore and Kingussie.
The development is on the Alvie, Dalraddy and Dunachton estates and straddles the boundary of Cairngorms National Park.
The turbines, the majority standing 125m tall, would be visible from nearly 26,000 hectares of the Cairngorms National Park, including landmark high points such as the Ptarmigan restaurant and popular Munros including Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm and Braeriach.
The application, by RWE Innogy, has been opposed by all statutory consultees, including the government’s own advisers Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Highland Council. Kincraig and Vicinity Community Council is also against the scheme, as are 73 per cent of locals polled in a referendum held in January.
Updated planning regulations have banned onshore wind farms in national parks and national scenic areas.
The decision on Allt Duine, which has been delayed due to last week’s general election, will be based on the outcome of a public inquiry held in 2012.
It will be the first major test for the Scottish Government’s new wild land policy, which was introduced last year to safeguard unspoilt areas from development.
The letter, from representatives of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Save Monadhliath Mountains campaign, Ramblers Scotland and the John Muir Trust, states: “As a First Minister who delivers, you know that actions speak louder than words.”
It continues: “Your leadership has galvanised Scotland. With that same energy, I hope you and your ministerial colleagues will protect the Cairngorms National Park – an internationally acclaimed natural resource and symbol of Scotland – the national scenic area and the wild land area.”
It concludes that “government decisions need to show that last year’s planning changes are meaningful”.
John Stevenson, a spokesman for Save Monadhliath Mountains, said: “Wild land is a finite and valuable natural resource, protected from development by national planning policy updated only last year.
“The First Minister’s position is crystal clear – under her government, wild land is safeguarded and national parks have absolute protection from onshore wind farm development.
“For the sake of Scotland’s diminishing wild land and the internationally acclaimed Cairngorms National Park, it is time the SNP government delivered – starting with a refusal for Allt Duine wind farm.”
Allt Duine “is the wrong development in the wrong place”, according to Ramblers Scotland director Jess Dolan.
“It would have a huge impact on the landscape of the Monadhliath mountains, which are recognised for their outstanding natural beauty and their sense of tranquillity and much enjoyed by walkers,” she said.
“We urge the government to listen to those who have objected to this wind farm, and agree that the protection of some of Scotland’s finest wild land is more important than yet another industrial development in an inappropriate location.”
John Muir Trust chief Stuart Brooks is calling for an urgent ruling on Allt Duine and two other schemes planned for wild land areas to “end the uncertainty for everyone involved”.
He added: “By clearing up any confusion over the status of wild land, costly and time-consuming speculative applications can be avoided in the future.”
A spokeswoman 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.
“That includes planning policy which makes clear that wind farms are not appropriate in national parks or national scenic areas, which cover a fifth of Scotland.
“It also strengthens protection for wild land areas outwith national parks and national scenic areas, which cover a further tenth of the country.”
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