Campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to strengthen protection for wild land areas after a legal challenge against a wind farm in the Highlands failed.
The 22-turbine Creag Riabhach development on the Altnaharra estate, near Lairg, will have five turbines in an area designated as wild land.
Danish businessman Anders Povlsen, whose Wildland Ltd owns neighbouring estates, challenged the Scottish ministers’ decision to grant consent for the wind farm.
His case in the Court of Session claimed ministers failed to give “proper adequate and intelligible reasons” regarding protection and development opportunities in areas of wild land.
Judge Lord Boyd ruled against Wildland Ltd, finding there was “no error of law either in the way in which they (the Scottish ministers) reached their decision or expressing their reasons for it”.
In a written judgement, he added: “In short, the petitioners’ position appears to be that no wind farm development whatsoever should be allowed on designated wild land areas.
“That may be, but that is a political decision and not one for the courts.”
He said the wild land policy is clear it does not provide “absolute protection against any development”.
The court highlights Highland Council’s assessment that the only “major” impacts will be from Ben Klibreck and Ben Hee, but campaigners claim the wind farm will be seen from several peaks.
A spokesman for Wildland said it is “disappointed” by the court’s decision.
He added: “Let there be no doubt – this development is a substantial incursion into the wildland area between Foinaven, Ben Hee, Arkle, Ben Hope, Ben Loyal and Ben Klibreck – from whose summits this industrial-scale development will be highly visible.
“We suspect the same can be said for Suilven, Quinag and Canisp in Assynt as well.”
He added: “This particular proposal always seemed so substantial in an area renowned for its scenery, its wildness and nature.
“It is troubling in the extreme that, despite the special qualities of this and other areas of wild land, the Scottish Government has not afforded them the protection under law that they so clearly deserve and need.”
Mountaineering Scotland and the John Muir Trust are calling for the Scottish Government to ban all development in designated wild land areas.
Mountaineering Scotland chief executive officer David Gibson said: “While we respect the decision of the court, the decision of the minister to approve this wind farm will render an extraordinary, world-renowned, wild and open landscape completely ordinary.
“This outcome emphasises why the Scottish Government must change its present policy. Wild land areas must get the same absolute protection as national scenic areas and national parks.”
John Muir Trust chief executive Andrew Bachell said the government should ensure wild land areas have “absolute protection from major wind farm development”.
Both organisations were among the 210 objections to the wind farm, which Highland Council and the local Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra Community Council backed.
The government expects the wind farm to bring about £9 million in community benefit and generate enough power for 36,000 homes.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding