Scotland's mountaineers have expressed concerns about the possible threat to rare wildlife from the proposed Talladh a Bheithe Wind Farm.
Hundreds of residents, businesses and landscape protection organisations are actively opposing the scheme to build 24 wind turbines, each 125 metres tall, together with the wide access tracks, buildings and infrastructure, on moorland between Loch Rannoch and Loch Ericht.
The impact on wildlife is a key concern for some including George Macdonald, who recently retired after 23 years as head gamekeeper on a local estate. His views are backed up by Scottish Natural Heritage whose own objection suggests that the wind turbines would kill one golden eagle every 19 months and would have a damaging effect on other birds and mammals.
Mr Macdonald wrote to the Scottish Government to say: “I am very familiar with the wildlife that abounds in the Rannoch area and in particular with the rare species that frequent the site and surroundings of this proposed scheme.
He added: “I wish to object to this planning application on the grounds that the scheme is likely to have significant negative impacts on bird species listed under schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1991 as amended in Scotland, in both its construction and operational phases.”
The former gamekeeper states that the area is a prime hunting ground for the eagles which nest on high ground nearby. He also believes it would affect mammals, such as the otters which use the Allt Ghlas and its tributaries on the site.
David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, said: “Scotland’s mountains and wild lands are one of our greatest treasures and must be protected.
“This ill-considered, inappropriate and deeply unpopular scheme is a serious threat both to our wildlife, and to the sustainable tourism businesses which rely on visitors wanting to come and experience our open, empty spaces and the birds and animals which thrive there.”
The huge turbines would affect views from Schiehallion, the Ben Alder massif, the mountains above Glen Lyon and Loch Tay and some above the Drumochter Pass. It would even be visible from the main A82 tourist route and the West Highland Railway line.
Among the species which could be affected during the huge construction works needed to build the wind farm and bulldoze around 13km of new tracks are said to be:
· Black throated, great northern and red throated diver
· Dotterel, which breed in the adjacent SSSI
· Golden eagle
· White tailed eagle
· Osprey, which nest in forestry to the west and over-fly the area to fish in Lochs Ericht and Mheugaidh.
The concerns are shared by the John Muir Trust and the Keep Rannoch Wild campaign.
A spokesperson for Keep Rannoch Wild said “This rare and precious habitat is essential for the success of breeding eagles in Rannoch. It provides a base from which they are slowly but surely re-colonising their old territories in Highland Perthshire.
“Residents and visitors alike consider it a great privilege that there are increasing sightings of these magnificent birds soaring over Rannoch’s glens and lochs. It would be an outrage if they were displaced by construction activity and even more so if any were damaged or killed, as would be likely, by this insensitive and speculative scheme.
“The site that Eventus propose for a turbine array is also hugely valuable for ospreys, other raptors and rare mammals. It should be cherished, not bulldozed and concreted.”