Highland Council’s planning committee members today deferred their decision on the controversial Allt Duine wind farm and will carry out a site visit in the New Year. Supporters of the Save the Monadhliath Mountains (SMM) campaign who have fought the plans welcomed the pause, although they stressed that this would not distract them from their goal of achieving an objection by the council to the application for the large wind farm on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park near Kincraig.
Outdoor author, photographer and former President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Chris Townsend, is a spokesman for the SMM campaign. Chris, who lives in the Cairngorms National Park, is also a writer and photographer for TGO (The Great Outdoors) Magazine and has written many books and guides about the area, including A Year in the Life of the Cairngorms and the Cicerone guide Scotland.
Commenting on today’s Highland Council deferral and site visit, Chris Townsend, said: “The decision to pause and carry out a site visit is welcome. We hope on seeing the wild landscape of the Monadhliath Mountains and the proposal’s impact on the setting of the Cairngorms National Park, the councillors will be left with no other choice than to object.
“It is crucial that the officers arrange a visit in collaboration with National Park Authority to ensure councillors see and hear the devastating detail of this proposal in its own right and also in conjunction with the neighbouring wind factories close by.
“Allt Duine is one of 11 wind farms being developed near the National Park and we believe there is a line in the sand and this is it – this proposal is a step too far. 31 turbines, the majority of which are a massive 410 feet in height, are completely inappropriate for a wild area of outstanding natural beauty. The construction and operation of the turbines will have an irrevocable impact on the landscape, wildlife and ornithology of the area.
“The only way to guarantee a thorough assessment is for the application to be heard at a full Public Inquiry.”
Today’s Committee meeting agenda contained reports on two wind farms, the second being at Moy, with two very different outcomes – to object to Moy and not to object to the more controversial Allt Duine proposal. The Officer recommendation rode roughshod over the Council’s brand new draft wind farm spatial guidance which has a clear policy of steering development away from the Allt Duine (and Moy) areas.
Formal objections have been lodged with the Scottish Government against the Allt Duine plans by the Cairngorms National Park authority, the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and key local estates.
SMM campaigners, who staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Highland Council headquarters in Inverness today, plan to carry on their fight, backed by their over 1260 supporters, to ensure the wild landscape around Allt Duine and the western edge of the Cairngorms National Park is protected from the devastating effects of the wind farm development. The overarching objective of the SMM campaign is to ensure the wild landscape of the Monadhliath Mountains and the setting of the Cairngorms National Park is protected.
The Allt Duine wind farm is one of 11 developments (proposed or currently under construction) on the edge of the National Park. Campaigners are increasingly concerned about the cumulative effect of wind power stations on the unspoilt landscape of Scotland’s largest national park – a point echoed by the Cairngorms National Park Authority – and have been urging supporters to ‘Save the Monadhliath Mountains’ over the last few months. The economy of the local area is completely dependent on tourism, and recent research commissioned by Highland Council has shown that ‘unspoilt scenery’ is by far the main draw to the area in the eyes of visitors. The amount of Scotland visually unaffected by built developments decreased from 41% in 2002 to 28% in 2009 according to official figures, with wind farms being the main contributor to this dramatic reduction.
Renowned mountaineer, writer and broadcaster, Cameron McNeish; Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust, Stuart Brooks; and David Gibson, Chief Officer of The Mountaineering Council of Scotland are backing the campaign, along with support from organisations such as Scottish Campaign for National Parks, Walkhighlands and Scotland-Landscapes.