A landscape architect for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) was grilled yesterday during a planning inquiry about the true wildness of land close to a proposed north windfarm.
Gordon Steele QC argued that the results of a study done for SNH in an area close to the 14-turbine Carn Gorm development undermined their key objection to the project.
The inquiry was called after applicant PI Renewables appealed to the Scottish Government to overturn a Highland Council decision to reject its plans, on the grounds it would have a negative impact on wild land.
Landscape architect Catherine Harry gave her evidence on the fourth day of proceedings in front of planning reporter Richard Maslin, who will pass verdict on the plan.
The 377ft-tall turbines would be erected at Carn Gorm, on the southern slopes of the Ben Wyvis massif above Strathgarve Forest, about two miles north-east of Garve.
During Ms Harry’s cross-examination, Mr Steele claimed that one of four SNH study areas assessing the project’s impact on wild land, at the Little Wyvis node, did not meet the criteria for what he called “true wild land.”
A “Jenks” classification system was used to measure the strength of physical attributes in the area which were rated at five and six – below the wild land accepted levels of seven or eight.
Mr Steele said: “The inevitable conclusion is that the study area I am asking about is not true wild land.
“You know that it would be wholly damaging to your case if you did accept that conclusion, don’t you?”
Ms Harry said: “I do not assess wild land from single viewpoints and it is very difficult for me to make an assessment from a viewpoint on its own.”
Under re-examination from SNH solicitor Rod McKenzie, Ms Harry added that she felt Mr Steele’s approach to questioning a landscape architect on an isolated study area was not justifiable.
Mr McKenzie also highlighted that Scottish Ministers have adopted wild land areas put forward in other cases despite study areas within them showing lower levels of wildness. He cited the vetoed Allt Duine windfarm at the edge of the Cairngorm National Park as an example.
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