Campaigners fighting to stop countryside in the south of Scotland being “overwhelmed” by wind turbines are calling on Scottish politicians to set out nationwide development plans that will safeguard landscapes and prioritise communities ahead of the upcoming election.
They say parties who commit to giving local people a strong voice in planning decisions could be “pleasantly surprised” by the number of rural residents who would vote for them.
In a letter to party leaders, campaign group Save Our Hills warned that many parts of the country are at saturation point, and that Scotland’s unique landscape and scenery is at stake.
The group, based in Dumfries and Galloway, wants the views of local people to hold greater weight when decisions on wind farms are made by councils and the Scottish Government.
The letter states: “We are particularly concerned to know what, if any, balance you plan to strike between offshore and onshore wind farms under the present planning regime, not least by producing a comprehensive development plan for Scotland as a whole rather than the current piecemeal approach.
“In addition, we are interested as to whether you plan to give any greater weight to local opinion – particularly general objections not tied to current specific planning criteria – than has been given hitherto.”
There are already 490 turbines in operation across Dumfries and Gallow, with a further 275 consented and awaiting construction.
Proposals for 426 more are going through planning – some of which could be among the tallest in the world – while there are scoping reports in the pipeline for others.
The campaigners say the region is being disproportionately targeted, with the production capacity of those in operation and consented standing at 1,974.92 MW – enough to supply more than one million, which is 15 times more than the number of homes predicted for the area by 2028.
Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:“The upcoming election is of huge importance, but few things matter more to people in rural areas than the protection of their local area.
“For too long Scotland has been seen as a soft-touch when it comes to large wind farm developments.
“We want all parties to set out in their manifestos how they will prioritise Scotland’s unique and unrivalled landscape over the interests of wind farm developers, many of whom are owned by overseas firms.
“The opinions of local people must hold more weight when it comes to decision-making, and we need a far more comprehensive planning strategy which covers the entire country.
“We appreciate that renewables are an important part of the energy mix, but the pendulum has swung too far from countryside communities.
“Any party which commits to changing this will be pleasantly surprised by the number of people across rural Scotland who will respond positively.”
Communities elsewhere have also raised concerns about becoming “surrounded” by wind farms.
Residents in South Lanarkshire fear their quality of life will be badly affected if plans for a massive new scheme get the go-ahead.
Currently at scoping stage, the Bodinglee project could see 62 turbines of up to 250m tall erected around the villages of Roberton, Douglas and Rigside.
The area is already home to several large schemes, including the 206-turbine Clyde wind farm.
Locals have complained of being “inundated” with wind farm proposals.