The Scottish Government has turned down plans for a windfarm on a highly sensitive Highlands site because the company applying for permission didn’t exist at the time of the submission.
Opponents of the Rannoch Moor scheme said they highlighted irregularities in the application 10 months ago.
Campaigners, including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the John Muir Trust welcomed the rejection as ‘not competent’. They said they hoped there would be no repeat application.
The John Muir Trust said: “The application appears to have mysteriously transferred to a newly incorporated UK-registered company, Talladh-a Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd two months after it was submitted in June 2014 by a shadowy Netherlands-based company, Eventus BV.”
A letter from the Government’s Energy Consents Unit said: “It has come to the attention of Scottish ministers that the applicant, Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm Limited was not incorporated under the Companies Act 2006 as a private company until 28 August 2014.
“Therefore having considered the circumstances of this application and noting the applicant was not a legal entity at the date the application was made, Scottish Ministers are returning this application as not competent.”
Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd, describes itself on its website as ‘a wholly owned subsidiary of Eventus BV’.
Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, said: “For the past 16 months, we have worked closely with the local Keep Rannoch Wild campaign and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland to stop this monstrosity in the heart of Wild Land Area 14, so we are delighted that the scheme has been deemed not competent.
“The decision will come as a huge relief to many in the local community who were horrified by the proposal to erect 24 turbines, each 125m high, in an area famed across the world for the wildness of its landscape and heavily dependent on tourism.”
“From the start, this was a speculative application by a front company set up by the landowner of the Talladh-a-Bheithe estate.
“Over the past 16 months it has consumed huge amounts of time, money and effort by campaign groups and by Perth & Kinross Council. The whole inept episode further underlines the need for strategic national planning to end the energy free-for-all.”
MCofS director for landscape and access Dave Gordon said he was delighted to hear the news.
He said: “Although the decision was based on a specific legal point, which meant that the application was not competent, many people thought the very idea of windfarm in such an unspoilt area was incompetent.
“We hope that Rannoch is now free forever from the threat of wind turbines and does not have to suffer repeated applications, as many communities have.”
The MCofS campaigned against the planning application because of the major visual impact of such a large scale development, which it argued was not necessary in order to meet Scottish Government objectives for renewable energy generation.
If given the go-ahead, it would have affected views from Schiehallion, the Ben Alder massif, the mountains above Glen Lyon and Loch Tay and some above the Drumochter Pass. It would even have been visible from the main A82 on the far side of Rannoch Moor and from Buachaille Etive Mòr beyond, it said.
At the time of the application, MCofS chief executive David Gibson said: “Any presumed benefit from this development would be far outweighed by the damage it would do to such a distinctive landscape which is vital not only to Highland Perthshire’s identity but also to Scotland’s international image.”
A massive campaign against the proposal involved local residents under the Keep Rannoch Wild banner, the John Muir Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage and even American novelist Diana Gabaldon, whose Outlander novels were filmed in the area for a popular television series.
A spokesperson for Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd said shortly after the application was submitted: “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.”