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Campaigners say Monadhliath windfarm will hurt tourism

Rural tourism is the lifeblood of the Highlands economy and there are significant concerns that the local tourism economy stands to be severely damaged by the Allt Duine wind farm if the go ahead for the site is granted, warns the “Save the Monadhliath Mountains” (SMM) campaign.

The Allt Duine site is one of 11 wind farms being developed in-and-around the Cairngorms National Park. The SMM campaign believes there is a line in the sand and this is it, and that this windfarm is a step too far.

A spokesman for the campaign said, “Landscapes and wildlife are one of the main reasons why visitors come to Scotland and enjoying nature is one of the key activities visitors like to do when they get here. Therefore, SMM campaigners are keen to ensure the landscape is managed sustainably to make certain this fantastic natural resource is not undermined.

“According to a recent report by Scottish Natural Heritage*, Scotland’s nature is worth at least £1.4bn a year to the Scottish economy (40% of all tourism spending) and supports the equivalent of 39,000 full time jobs. Wildlife tourism brings in £127m and is the main driver behind more than one million trips to Scotland each year. Walking and enjoying the landscape are thought to be worth at least £900m between them.

“Campaigners feel that the proposed 31 turbines, the majority of which are 125 metres (or 410 feet high), or the equivalent to a stack of 28 double-decker buses, are completely inappropriate for an area of outstanding natural beauty and would have a critical and irrevocable impact not just on the landscape and wildlife, but potentially also on the tourist appeal of the area.

“The proposed Allt Duine wind farm would not only be visible from 35 kilometres away, destroying views of the striking Monadhliath Mountains, the Strathdearn Hills, the Meall A Buachaille ridge, Cromdale, Gaick, Dalnamein and the Atholl forest, but would also be seen by visitors to the CairnGorm Mountain Railway and parts of the Rothiemurchus Estate, both of which are listed in the top ten visitor attractions in the Highlands.

“With the site boundary of the wind farm proposed just 400 metres from the Cairngorms National Park, campaigners believe it will have a detrimental impact on the natural setting. The permanent access and cabling route would begin within the National Park itself, as would the site reception and temporary construction compound. Access tracks leading to the wind farm would also cross a number of important habitats on the Scottish biodiversity list, such as blanket bog, wet heath, dry heath and lichen-rich heaths. A variety of protected birds of prey, including the European protected Golden Eagle have also been tracked in the vicinity of the proposed site.

“Campaigners are particularly concerned about Scotland’s dwindling wild land resources. According to recent Natural Heritage Indicators from Scottish Natural Heritage, ‘The amount of Scotland visually unaffected by built developments has decreased from 41% in 2002 to 28% in 2009, primarily as a result of construction of wind farms and their associated infrastructure.’”

Outdoor author, photographer and former President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Chris Townsend, said: “The proposed Allt Duine wind factory represents one of 11 wind farms that either already exist or are at the planning stage in the Cairngorms National Park area alone. The campaign and its supporters are very concerned about the cumulative effect of turbines on the unspoiled landscape of Scotland’s largest national park and the potential damage to the area’s tourism industry.

“The appeal of our rugged wild landscape cannot be underestimated. Rural tourism is vital to the Highlands’ economy and to carry on industrialising the area is unacceptable. To build a large wind farm in an area of unspoilt wild land, and in an area that the Council wishes to protect, would be devastating and a step too far.”

It is understood that the RWE npower renewables Ltd application (11/00853/S36) will come before the Highland Council Planning Committee on 20 December. If councillors do not object to the proposal the application will pass to the Scottish Government to make a decision. If the councillors object, it will trigger a Public Inquiry.

Over 1200 people have already signed the online petition opposing the proposals. Formal objections have been lodged with the Scottish Government by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Scottish Campaign for National Parks and key local estates. For more information on the campaign see the SMM website.

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