Campaigners have slammed as “appalling” the decision by the Scottish Government to allow a controversial wind farm despite almost 2000 objections.
The plans by RES UK and Ireland to build 20, 110-metre turbines between Nairn and Grantown were given the green light despite outcry from thousands of Highland residents, as well as Highland and Moray councils, Cairngorm National Park Authority, the John Muir Trust and community councils.
Those fighting the wind farm at Cairn Duhie, 1.5km south east of the village of Ferness, said it would destroy the stunning scenery and nature which attracts tourists, particularly the Dava Moors which has special landscape area (SLA) status and the Cairngorm National Park.
But after a process stretching four years and a public inquiry held in Grantown last March, Scottish ministers approved the plan.
Prominent local campaigner Mrs Pat Wells said:”This is an appalling example of a dictatorial decision made against local, national and international opinion.
“Scottish ministers have ridden roughshod over the local community’s views and it’s going to have a considerable impact on a well loved and internationally recognised landscape.
“If this had been in England the development would have been refused because windfarms cannot be built if the community does not want it. But the Scottish Government has gone against a considerable number of objections from the local community and it is a serious disappointment.”
Two campaign groups, Save Our Dava and Cairn Duhie Actio Group, were set up to fight the wind farm, which will be built on 666 hectares of rough moorland, of the A939 between Nairn and Grantown, but Scottish Government-appointed reporter Dannie Onn said although there will be “significant landscape effects” it would “not be unacceptable”.
The report said: “Scottish ministers are satisfied that the applicant has done what it reasonably can to mitigate any effect on the natural beauty of the countryside or any such flora, fauna, features, sites, buildings or objects.
“There would be significant landscape effects at the site itself. The immediate setting of the SLA would be affected and at a well visited part of it.
“However, large areas would be untouched or would see the turbines in the context of other wind farm development within and around the SLA.
“For those driving across the moors I find that the proposed wind farm would not be unacceptable.
“There would be greater impact on parts of the Dava Way but in general the area is sparsely visited and the main areas of interest would not be unduly affected.
“In residential terms, the visual impacts on Kerrow and Braemory Lodge would be of greatest impact. Others would be affected but the total number is low, none would be so affected that the property would become an unattractive place to live.
“Benefits to the wind farm include its contribution towards government renewable energy targets and the economic benefit of jobs and other expenditure, particularly during construction.”
The plans attracted 1925 objections and 591 supporting statements.
Highland Council had objected on the basis of “significant adverse landscape and visual impacts” while the Cairngorm National Park Authority complained that it would add to the “ring of steel” surrounding the outskirts of the park as turbines are banned inside the park boundary.
The John Muir Trust said it was also disappointed with the Cairn Duhie windfarm decision and said it highlighted inconsistencies in the decision making process.
“Two major planning decisions by the Scottish Government have further underlined the need for a more robust and consistent approach to wild land and special landscapes,” said Mel Nicoll, the trust’s campaigns coordinator.
“Both applications were opposed by local communities, conservationists, local authorities and other public agencies. Yet the outcomes were starkly different.
“The first announcement – that Ministers had refused the 25-turbine Crossburns wind farm in Highland Perthshire close to Loch Tay – was greeted by general relief. But that was immediately tempered by news later the same day that another industrial-scale development – Cairn Duhie – had been approved.
“Although neither development falls within officially-mapped Wild Land Areas, the John Muir Trust opposed both applications because of the cumulative impact of large-scale energy infrastructure in these areas.
“The Trust only objects to a small minority of applications, and has tended not to oppose moderate development outside wild land. But we did lodge an objection to these proposals because the additional turbines, on top of existing development, threatened to fundamentally alter the character of these landscapes.
“We pointed out that a major wind farm on Dava Moor, just a few miles outside the boundary of both the National Park and Wild Land Area 15, would be in conflict with national planning policy because of the cumulative impact that large-scale developments such as these will have on national designations, to the extent that the qualities for which they were designated are at risk of being lost.
“The differing treatment of the two applications serves as a stark reminder that more of Scotland’s special landscapes remain at risk while there is scope for Reporters to reach glaringly different conclusions even when the landscape impact issues are equally significant.”
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