One of Scotland’s most controversial proposed wind farms – on officially designated ‘wild land’ in the Monadhliath – has been rejected by Scottish Government ministers following a public enquiry and lengthy delays.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney 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 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 and sensitively.
“I have considered the Allt Duine application fully and have refused permission as the proposal would have a significant and unacceptable landscape and visual impacts in the local area, including on the Cairngorms National Park and on a wild land area.”
Chris Townsend, a spokesman for the Save Monadhliath Mountains campaign, has welcomed the decision, saying “This is a victory for common sense, the safeguarding of the wild land in the Monadhliath Mountains and the absolute protection of the Cairngorms National Park.
“This wind farm scheme was simply the wrong development in the wrong location.
“When the application was lodged five years ago it was pushing the boundaries of plausibility. With national planning policy dramatically changing over that 2000 day period, it was clear that only one sensible conclusion could be drawn.
“The thousands of individuals and organisations that support the SMM campaign thank Mr Swinney for injecting a much needed dose of reality back into the determination process.
“The SMM campaign will watch with interest to see whether German-owned RWE Innogy try to make a case in the courts that the proposal can be ‘mitigated’. As lawyers, planners and conservationists know, safeguarding is incompatible with mitigation – unless the turbines in the safeguarded wild land of Monadhliath Mountains and the proposed road, cabling, compound and cement batching plant in the Cairngorms National Park are now to be invisible?”
David Gibson, Chief Officer of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, commented: “Like many other organisations and individuals we worked hard to seek refusal of consent for this development. We hope this is evidence of a firm and consistent commitment by the Scottish Government to the protection of wild land and Scotland’s mountains from similar massive industrial scale developments. That would demonstrate that it understands the value of wild land and the need to protect its special qualities for the benefit of all.
“We now call on the government to reinforce that commitment by providing unambiguous protection for mapped wild land through a new and clear designation in planning policy. It should also refuse planning consent for the industrial scale developments at Sallachy and Glencassley, both located in wild land area 34, as failure to do so would undermine the integrity of the wild land map.”
Cairngorms National Park Convener Duncan Bryden, said: “We are extremely pleased that our concerns about this particular windfarm on the very edge of the Cairngorms National Park have been listened to by Ministers. This would have been the closest windfarm to the Park and was a wholly unacceptable proposal.
“It would have transformed the Monadhliath skyline and contributed to the gradual encircling of the north-western boundary of the Park, with turbines visible from iconic high points like Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm and Braeriach.
“Many visitors come to the Cairngorms National Park for its mountain landscapes, the long open horizons and to experience a sense of wildness and the CNPA believes it is wise to safeguard their enjoyment and that of future Park users.”
Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said: “The battle to save this precious area of wild land has been long and hard. We are delighted that the Deputy First Minister John Swinney has come down on the side of the people and the landscape against the energy giant RWE.
“We are especially heartened by the Scottish Government’s growing recognition of the importance of landscape, which is in tune with the views of the big majority of the population of Scotland and of the Highlands as revealed in two major opinion surveys.
“We also welcome the Minister’s acknowledgement that Allt Duine would have adversely affected the Monadhliath Wild Land Area [WLA 20].
“Coming on top of recent decisions to reject wind farms that would have impacted on wild land areas in Glen Affric and Caithness, this gives us grounds for optimism.
“We would now ask that the Scottish Government demonstrates its unequivocal commitment to the long term future of wild land by rejecting Glencassley and Sallachy, two other major developments on wild land in the Highlands that are awaiting ministerial decisions.”