The John Muir Trust has expressed concern over today’s decision by Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse to consent the application for the Creag Riabhach wind farm at Altnaharra estate near Lairg in Sutherland.
The development will mean the construction of 22 turbines, up to 125 metres high – roughly the height of Scotland’s tallest structure, the Glasgow Tower – in north west Sutherland. Five of the turbines will fall within the boundary of Wild Land Area 37 (Foinaven-Ben Hee).
Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said: “Naturally, we are very disappointed and concerned. This is the first such development to be consented within the boundaries of the Wild Land Areas map since it was agreed in 2014.
“The decision flies in the face of a series of previous decisions by the Scottish Government, refusing consent to similar applications impacting on Wild Land Areas.
“This is not a few small community-owned turbines. It is a major industrial development, including giant turbines, access roads and transmission infrastructure, which will almost certainly lead to the redrawing of the boundary of Wild Land Area 37.
“We are concerned that this project will become a Trojan Horse, attracting further large –scale industrial development into the area in the future, leading to further diminishing of the qualities of this wild place which attract visitors from around the world. We also fear that the decision could set a precedent for other Wild Land Areas.”
Without any explanation, the decision contradicts previous rulings by the Scottish Government to reject applications on wild land grounds at Allt Duine, Glenmore, Carn Gorm, Sallachy and Glencassley. It also flies in the face of opposition from its own advisers, Scottish Natural Heritage.
Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the Trust said: “Given the inevitable controversy surrounding this application, it is surprising that the Scottish Government did not order a Public Local Inquiry to ensure thorough scrutiny of all the implications of this development not just for Wild Land Area 37, but potentially for other Wild Land Areas in the future.”