It is easy to get a community motivated to fight a development that will change everyone’s surroundings. But expecting them to do so regularly, sometimes over several years and in the face of a number of barriers, is something else. That is what we are experiencing in this part of the Highlands in terms of relentless onshore wind farm applications.
In the summer the local authority agreed with us that a submission for an eight-turbine wind farm at Meall Buidhe, near the picturesque village of Rosehall, about 50 miles north of Inverness, should be refused. It was a triumph for people and businesses who pointed out that the area was at saturation point with existing developments, and that this would wreck the scenery, damage tourism and impact the quality of life.
Now an appeal has been submitted by the developers to the Scottish government and we must start the fight over again. This is on top of battling other wind farm plans in our area, of which there are many and – if updated Scottish government policy is to be believed – many more are coming down the tracks.
For all that renewables are an important part of the energy mix, communities like ours have more than played our part. Campaign groups in other parts of the country feel the same. We have had barely a month to get together our new representations, while the developers have had four months to employ a team of experts to prepare an 85-page appeal document.
In short the paper states that we, who have to live with this development, find it unacceptable. They, who do not have to live with it, argue it is fine. The Scottish government has already ruled on 13 appeals in 2022-23 from wind farm developers who did not accept the decisions of local elected representatives. Mercifully the success rate of these appeals sits at just under half, which is far lower than previous years and gives us a fighting chance.
But it is just one of many fights that communities are having in the face of wealthy energy companies.
The government must set a limit on applications, and the cost of appeals, that each community can endure. We think the unique, unspoilt scenery that Scotland’s landscape provides deserves to be protected. Ministers in Edinburgh ought to be finding ways to ensure that it is.
Ashley Smith is spokesman for No Ring of Steel, which campaigns against more wind farm development in the Highlands.
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