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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Allt Duine: Highland Council rejects planning application

It’s not often that you can say this but today has been a Very Good Day in the fight against wind power stations on wild land.

In fact, It has been an excellent day. You may remember my views on this particular wind power station, which you can find HERE, when I wrote about it in April of last year.

This morning, the Highland Councillors undertook a site visit to the Ptarmigan Restaurant at the top of the Cairngorm Funicular railway, over 20km from the actual site of the proposed windfarm, to see how visible Allt Duine will actually be.  Then, this afternoon, they rejected RWE’s application for 31 x 125m high wind turbines on the very boundary of the Cairngorm National Park by nine votes to three. It will now go to a public inquiry to be undertaken by the Scottish Government.

ALLT DUINNE MAP

The John Muir Trust, The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the Cairngorm National Park Authority all made written submissions lodging their objections to the Application. In addition, there has been a well organised campaign called Save the Monadhliath Mountains backed by a petition with over 1300 signatures. They had the support of Cameron McNeish and Chris Townsend, who have both been active supporters of the campaign; indeed, Chris was a spokesperson for it.

Highland Councillors Fallows, Black, Kerr, Balfour, Davidson and Wood all spoke up against the planning application. (Hooray!) On the other hand, Councillors Pragg, Hunter and Gray supported the application. (Booo!)

Councillor Pragg thought the windfarm was “well planned” and he thought “the influence on the Cairngorm National Park was not significant”.

Councillor Hunter said that “many of the individual objectors live a long way from the site”.

Councillor Gray really took the biscuit, though: He was surprised that there had been so very little opposition to the application. He said that the site visit had shown that very little of the windfarm will be visible. He said that “it is clear that the Council should follow SNP policies and accept the application”.

Whilst I am on the subject of Councillor Gray it would be prudent to mention that in his Register of Interests on the Highland Council Website, that Jimmy Gray declared:

14/01/08: Platform PR - Celebration dinner for 5th Anniversary of funding of company based in the Highlands

Platform PR do a huge amount of work for the wind industry: Amongst others, their clients include:

  • Dunoon Wind Farm
  • EON
  • Falck Renewables
  • Nan Clach Ltd (another windfarm near the Cairngorm NP)
  • Scottish & Southern Energy
  • Viking Energy

I wonder just how objective his viewpoint actually is. It certainly didn’t seem to coincide with that of the majority of his colleagues. Councillor Wood certainly seemed to disagree strongly with him. None of the other councillors have registered dinners with Platform PR.

With it now in the lap of the Scottish Government, there is still a big fight to come as they have a history of overturning local democracy: Think of Trump’s golf course and the many, many wind farms, it has approved at inquiry.

However, this fight has been very high profile and the session was screened live so that the public could see the debate. The BBC and other media businesses were all there. It would be a foolish Scottish Government to overturn this popular decision.

Anyway: Today is a day to celebrate! Tomorrow we should renew our efforts to ensure the public inquiry also dumps the application.

31 comments:

  1. Bloody brilliant. I had a horrible feeling today after a dream involving a windfarm. Lets hope that the Scottish Govt follows the wishes of the local council.

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  2. Hi James: Yes - It is all the more brilliant as Highland Council's own Planning Officer advised acceptance of the Application from RWE.
    A 9-3 rejection is tremendous!

    We do have to keep the pressure up though, as Salmond is a wily bugger.

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  3. I'm off to have a malt - a 12 year old Bowmore or Glenlivet? A Glenlivet would be appropriate but I note that 59 turbines have been approved at Glenlivet.

    What to do?

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  4. It was covered on all the local TV news programmes, with Chris Townsend being interviewed on every channel.
    It's far from being over yet though.
    Mike fae Dundee

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  5. Gibson: That's an easy one to answer. the answer, of course, is BOTH!
    :-)

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  6. Fantastic result.
    As long as Salmond and his bully boy govt don't just run roughshod over the whole lot.
    But he wouldn't do that would he.
    He is a man of honour surely!

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  7. Hi Mike:
    It's brilliant that the decision has such a high profile. That's a credit to all those who worked so hard for this rejection. But your are of course spot on. We are now really up against it, with having to find the resources to fight the Scottish Government's wishes as well as RWE at the public enquiry.
    That will be a huge hill to climb.

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  8. Lets hope that the Scottish Govt follows the wishes of the local council.

    IF ONLY!

    But is it Blinkers on for Salmond! (again)

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  9. Andy: A few years ago, well before the last election, Salmond actually said that he wanted to protect the hills of Scotland from wind development.

    Politicians, eh? You can't trust 'em (Apart of course, from those excellent politicos at Highland Council!)

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  10. good job, well done. A toast to your resiliance!

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  11. Excellent news - but watch your backs. They'll be in to overrule quick as wink. Also - this isn't the only one on the go is it?

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  12. Hi David. Now that you're with the JMT you have a bit to do:

    There will now be another heap of work to do as a Public Enquiry will make large demands on the MCofS and the JMT and also the Cairngorm National Park. The depressing thing is that we all pay for the representation and work for the developer, a global business, as they factor these costs into the bills that you & I pay for our electricity! Whereas the JMT and MCofS are funded by contributions from their very limited memberships. It is important for everyone to dig deep and help the JMT and MCofS out if they possibly can.

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  13. Carl: Spot on. The German RWE nPower developer has incredibly deep pockets and their "spokesperson", Jennifer Gascoigne, has already said on STV that they will fight this one at the Enquiry. She takes succour from the fact that Cllr. Jimmy Gray said the wind farm was well planned and that it had surprisingly few objectors - a lot less than many other wind farm battles.

    This means that it is incredibly important to muster support and show these bastards that we *do* care about Allt Duine and the Monadhliath. We must re-double our efforts to get more support for the Public Enquiry.

    There are so many other wind farms lining up - Stronelairg, Ben Wyvis, The Balmaacaan... The list goes on and on... Heartbreaking stuff!

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  14. Well, the man has clearly no taste in matters of hairstyle, and the way he's been treating the locals with respect to his development is beneath contempt but as far as turbines are concerned his heart is in the right place:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-16608068

    So now Salmond has got to weigh views of that kind against all the wining and dining that the Germans developers will no doubt get going around Holyrood between now and the final decision on Allt Duine...

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  15. You may need to register for viewing this page (it's free) on the Glasgow Herald, but it's interesting that they should run a leader following the Allt Duine decision.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/herald-view/turbulent-times-ahead-for-snp-energy-policy.16510267

    I'm not sure the paper is really taking a coherent line on this, but it's nice that the issue is raised. By this I mean that they seem to think that the SNP energy policy *could* work, but that it would destroy the special character of the nation's landscape. The point they seem to be missing is that *even if we built all the turbines Salmond wants* we still would not have a stable supply of electricity in this country. And this second leg of the argument needs to be spelt out clearly. The first one is not enough, because you'll always get those who say: it's only hillwalkers who moan about the loss of the hills (as Chris reported in his wonderful post).

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  16. Superb result Alan, well done to all who committed energy and time to this result.

    The fact that it now goes to public inquiry is wrong. The public's against it, the council's against it and apparently an appeal hasn't yet been lodged by the developers. This business of planning matters going to inquiry after a decision has been made and before a challenge is plain wrong, and is anti-democratic. It means the developers get an automatic extra crack at it while the opponents - whose case has already been proven and accepted – have to drum up the energy and resources to go to battle again.

    What happens after the inquiry gos the same way (which I hope it will…) – can the developer turn around and say "best of five?"

    As for Coun Gray, he should really have declared an interest and abstained from the decision making. If this application had had the go-ahead it could have set a precedent for schemes backed by the companies that feed him

    Did he really say: “it is clear that the Council should follow SNP policies and accept the application”?

    Surely he meant Scottish government policy and not Scottish Nationalist Party policy? As a Labour member I didn't think he'd be quite so pro-SNP.

    Back in November I emailed every member of the planning committee about this scheme but Coun Gray was one of those who didn't reply; perhaps he was too busy having dinner with E.On or Platform PR…

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  17. great news! but as has already been said, its only a start.

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  18. Hi John

    I have just checked with my twitter feed (I was 'tweeting' live as I was watching the proceedings) and that is what I wrote. It could be that I made an error - perhaps it was 'National Policy'? Chris was actually there so perhaps he could clarify this. I am pretty sure it is what Gray said though.

    I wonder if there is a written transcript of what was said. I shall have a rootle about.

    It does seem grossly unfair that multi-national developers can have repeated bites at the cherry, all the time making us pick up the tab for their representation by sticking their costs onto our energy bills. Whereas the JMT & MCofS are funded from their membership.

    It's almost inevitable that the developer will succeed.

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  19. Cheers Alan,

    If it's correct what you writed then Gray ought to have some answers ready for his party bosses:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-15578344

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  20. Yes well done.

    Further south in Powys there is a wind farm debate.

    Powys CC will be airing a debate through the internet on 26th Jan at 1400. Links will appear on the councils website.

    may be interesting.

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  21. They wouldn't succeed if they didn't have so many politicians in their pockets.
    And the whole system wasn't so biased.

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  22. Good link, John. You're right: Cllr Jimmie Gray ought to take a step back and listen to his party leader!

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  23. Bob: Thanks for the heads-up on that - I shall drop in and have a watch!

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  24. Mad'n'BadAndy: I am not so sure if the politicians are in anyone's pockets. I just think they are inept and do not understand the true value of wild land or the economics of wind energy.
    You have to remember that Scotland has a population the size of that of Birmingham. It's leaders are just glorified city councillors. The greasy pole is a lot shorter up there and the quality of politician all the poorer because of it.

    Salmond, however, performs quite brilliantly as a politician but dreadfully on the understanding of wind economics or basic engineering principles.

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  25. Great news Alan. I read the article featuring Chris Townsend in yesterday's Independent with much trepidation about the decision.

    Thank you for all your efforts keeping us up to date with this insane policy of ruining our wild places.

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  26. One pice of wild land saved. One step towards a highland landscape preserved. Good news. Keep up the fight. There is so much more wild land to save.

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  27. Mark: Thank you. :-) The problem we have is that, in general, the public perception of wind turbines is one of clean and green energy, releasing us from the clutches of megalomaniacs in Russia.
    In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Every single turbine has to be backed up by building new OC Gas Turbine power plants, which increases our dependency on gas from the likes of Russia and the middle east.
    Wind energy is not clean and nor is it green and we HAVE to get this message out there, so the public and politicians understand that electricity from wind turbines is a complete nonsense.
    Most importantly of all we have to stop any further destruction of the wild land.

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  28. Hi Martin.
    It would be good if more bloggers got the message out there about the threats to our wild land from onshore wind turbines. Perhaps you could write about it on your blog?

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  29. Only just catching up on my reading Alan. What a marvelous day.
    I am so thrilled.

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  30. Get back to your holiday, man! You shouldn't be reading blogs!
    :-))

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  31. One more link for ya, Alan:

    http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/natural-environment-vital-to-scottish-economy-says-snh/006225/

    I'm not sure how to square that noble declaration of intent by SNH with the fact that they very rarely object to wind plants application!

    Go figure, as they say across the pond...

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