One of Scotland’s most spectacular and iconic glens is set to be developed with seven new hydro power schemes following a planning decision by Highland Council yesterday, despite more than 650 objections.
Councillor Andrew Baxter, who led opposition to three of the schemes, commented that the decision “shows the wild land designations we have, proposed by SNH and supposedly supported by the government, are not worth the paper they’re written on.”
The glen is the approach to many popular hillwalks and featured prominently in the James’ Bond film Skyfall. The planning applications attracted 667 objections, but all seven schemes were approved by councillors at a meeting yesterday afternoon.
Four of the schemes were approved unanimously, but there were split decisions on the more controversial developments on wild land, with two schemes approved by 6 votes to 3 and one by 5 votes to 4. Wild land areas are officially recognised by the Scottish Government as having qualities of remoteness and a natural appearance with few signs of human interference, considered a nationally important asset for outdoor recreation.
Local councillor Andrew Baxter argued that the cumulative effect of the hydros outweighed their benefits, saying that any jobs resulting would be minimal and that there had been no assessment of the impact on tourism.
He said: “I’ve struggled with all of these applications since the moment they were submitted. This glen is particularly special to me – I’ve spent a lot of time there walking with friends and family.”
Stuart Younie – the chief executive of Mountaineering Scotland – condemned the decision, saying: “We are bitterly disappointed at such a decision for this beautiful and iconic glen. Highland Council has failed in its stewardship of this wild and scenic area by allowing built development to spill up from the glen floor and into the open hillside.”
“The erosion of the wild qualities of the land and the picking away at the edges of wild areas is a major problem for our internationally important landscapes, and Highland Council and the current planning system have let us down badly.”