Panoramic footage has revealed the scale of massive wind farms which are gradually encircling Loch Ness, and which objectors have warned will destroy tourism.
Highland Council’s interactive 360-degree photomontage depicts scores of turbines already built or consented.
It was shot from the most prominent summit, the 2,294ft Meall Fuar-mhonaidh on the west side of the loch, as part of local authority evidence in its objection to a 13-turbine development planned for another nearby site – Culachy Estate, near Fort Augustus.
The fate of that planning application will be in the hands of ministers in the coming months, steered by Scottish Government inquiry reporter, Robert Seaton, who heard the arguments for and against.
Veteran objectors are horrified by the emerging cumulative picture of wind farms enveloping the skyline.
While the proposed Culachy scheme would be largely screened from Fort Augustus, views from higher ground on the north side of the Great Glen would be significantly affected, according to senior council planner David Mudie, who focused at the inquiry on tourist routes.
Helen McDade of the conservation charity the John Muir Trust welcomed the council’s use of technology to accurately demonstrate the impact of giant turbines on the landscape.
She said: “Wind farm applications involve thousands of pages of technical information which is impossible for the public to analyse.
“Moving panoramas are a great tool for allowing people to gauge the reality.
“This one brings home to people how much development has happened and is planned for the Loch Ness area and the Great Glen. The council should be commended for producing this thought-provoking image.”
Dave Gordon of Mountaineering Scotland, who also gave evidence at the Culachy inquiry, added: “The panorama gives a realistic impression of the cumulative impact.
“Very soon, stravaiging (walking about) in this area will be unpleasantly punctuated by reminders that remoteness and wildness are fast becoming an illusion.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government insisted there were clear planning policies in place to ensure wind farms were developed in appropriate locations.
He said: “The policy provides additional protection for our national parks and national scenic areas as well as additional scrutiny of proposals in or affecting wild land areas.
“We need to pursue Scotland’s vast potential to generate power from renewable sources, but it’s equally clear we need to do this in a way that protects Scotland’s magnificent natural environment and each application is viewed in this context and based on its own merits.”
The council’s interactive montage is online at http://www.highland.gov.uk/site/custom_scripts/THC%20Panorama/Images/Culachy/tour.html
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