A central Sutherland wind farm protest group is gearing up for a fresh fight following the submission of revamped plans for a 20-turbine development on protected wild land in the area.
SSE Generation Ltd has lodged a planning application with the Scottish Energy Consents Unit for Achany Wind Farm Extension – previously known as Glen Cassley Wind Farm – on a site 20km north east of Glen Cassley Castle.
The planned turbines would measure 149.9m to blade tip and the wind farm would have a 50mw generating capacity – the threshold at which an application has to be decided by Scottish Ministers, although Highland Council is a statutory consultee.
Opposing the development is campaign group No Ring of Steel (NORoS.) who are not against wind farms per se but are concerned about the proliferation of wind farms in the area and the visual impact the Achany Extension would have on Glen Cassley.
Committee member and local resident Ron Boothroyd said: “This is yet another development in the tidal wave of applications that are being submitted around the villages of Rosehall and Altass.
“At present there are four separate wind farm applications under way and when combined with the operational Achany and Rosehall developments and the consented Braemore, we could face more than 130 turbines completely surrounding our once rural villages.”
SSE’s existing 19-turbine Achany Wind Farm has been operational since 2010, but its application for Glen Cassley Wind Farm was turned down in 2015.
The renewed and renamed Achany Extension application differs from the previous Glen Cassley Wind Farm proposal in that the site identified is two kilometres closer to the existing Achany and Rosehall wind farms.
In addition, the number of turbines has been reduced from 26 to 20, although their height has been increased from 125m to 149.9m – more than 80m taller than the existing Achany Wind Farm turbines.
NORoS say the 11-mile long Glen Cassley is a “hidden gem” with spectacular waterfalls, woodlands, river valleys and open hillsides to the base of Ben More, Assynt.
The group state: “This development is located on the protected Reay/Cassley wild land area and will have a huge visual impact not only on this but from the peak of Ben More, Assynt.”
Local B&B owners and keen birdwatchers Ashley and Tracy Smith are also concerned about the effect the Achany Extension will have on tourism in the area.
Mr Smith said: “Glen Cassley is a piece of Highland heaven and is popular with walkers, cyclists and bird watchers.
“Both locals and visitors come to enjoy the peace and quiet of this stunning rural area and escape from the modern world.”
When Glen Cassley Wind Farm was turned down, then Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government’s policy on wind farms strikes a careful balance between maximising Scotland’s huge green energy potential and protecting some of our most scenic landscape and wild land areas.
“We have been clear that wind farms can only be built in the right places and Scottish Planning Policy sets out rigorous steps to ensure wind farms are sited appropriately. I have considered this application fully and have refused permission as the proposal will have significant and unacceptable landscape and visual impacts in the local area and these are not outweighed by any wider policy benefit.”
Full details of the Achany Wind Farm Extension can be found at www.energyconsents.scot/Register.aspx Search for Achany Wind farm Extension ref ECU 0001930. Representations can be made until September 6.
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