He has splashed out tens of millions in his efforts to preserve the natural beauty of the Highlands. Now, Anders Povlsen’s love affair with Scotland appears to be ebbing after ministers backed a wind farm that he believes will scar the landscape and damage tourism.
The Danish billionaire, who owns almost a dozen Scottish estates, is reviewing his investment plans after the Scottish government approved the 22-turbine Creag Riabhach wind farm in Sutherland a fortnight ago.
Povlsen, who is poised to overtake the Duke of Buccleuch as Scotland’s largest private landowner, is upset with the decision, which follows years of negotiation by the Dane to buy his latest pile, the 18,000-acre Eriboll estate.
The Creag Riabhach turbines, each up to 125 metres high, will be visible from several of Povlsen’s properties, including Eriboll.
A spokesman for Povlsen said the billionaire is not against wind farms but disagrees with Holyrood’s latest decision to support a “wind factory” in the Highlands.
“Our passion for our land-holdings in Scotland is to maintain their wild and natural beauty,” said a spokesman for Povlsen.
“Our very large, internally agreed investment budget . . . [has] now to be reviewed by Mr Povlsen in light of this ruling on the Creag Riabhach wind factory. This review will be led partly by our disappointment of what we believe will be the degradation of the view and feeling experienced in this environment but also by the hard economic facts: can such a world-class tourism vision exist in a potentially industrial landscape?”
The company behind the Creag Riabhach wind farm has claimed that more than £9m will be generated for the local community over 25 years, and that businesses and residents will have their electricity “or equivalent” paid by the wind farm. Part of the income generated by the wind farm will support five jobs in Altnaharra.
Environmentalists argue that the wind farm is “a major industrial development” and a “Trojan horse” that is likely to attract further wind farm applications. One concern is that tourists will be deterred from embarking on North Coast 500, a Highland route that is Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66.
Holyrood’s support for Creag Riabhach has reignited claims that Scottish ministers are “riding roughshod” over rural communities. Some have complained that too many turbines spoil local scenery, while some councils have asked for moratoriums to be put in place to cope with the influx of planning applications.
New data published this weekend shows that two-thirds of wind farm applications rejected by local authorities have been overturned by the Scottish government so far this year. Of the 17 appeals submitted to and ruled upon by ministers in Edinburgh, 11 have been allowed.
“Too often, when these applications are lodged, the people say no, council planners say no and local elected representatives say no,” said Alexander Burnett, the Scottish Conservative’s energy spokesman. “Yet still we see ministers in Edinburgh pulling ranks and acting like they know what’s best for rural Scotland.
“Of course wind energy has a place in Scotland’s energy mix, but only when the turbines are not ruining local scenery and upsetting those who have to see them every day.
“The SNP should be opening its mind to other sources, like shale extraction, but instead it’s continuing on its bloody-minded path of having Scotland’s countryside plastered with unreliable and intermittent wind farms.”
As revealed by The Sunday Times last week, Povlsen is within 7,000 acres of becoming Scotland’s largest private landowner. His property empire comprises 218,364 acres. A spokesman for Buccleuch said the duke’s land-holding stands at just under 225,000 acres.
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