I’m writing this piece whilst listening to “1984” on the radio. It seems appropriate.
On Tuesday, an old friend will be handed a verdict that could result in a painful death. The spores have been spreading throughout the organ at an alarming rate, so much so that we have all but given up on the patient. The latest cancerous tumour is of such a size and central location that should it not be cut out, and cut out now, death will be inevitable.
I’m talking of course, about the Stronelairg wind farm, situated in the southern central Monadhliath Mountains. On Tuesday, Highland Council’s South Planning Applications Committee will be meeting to determine a planning application from Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) for 83 wind turbines 135m (that’s 443 feet – about a hundred feet higher than the White Cliffs of Dover!) tall with over 50 miles of access roads. All this is in an area of land that has an achingly beautiful, wild quality. The turbines are to be built at between 2,100 and 2,600 feet above sea level.
[CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE]
This wind farm is 6 miles long and 3 miles wide. It is of a size that it will take you about three hours to walk though. Wind farms destroy the habitats of upland birds and so where there is now lark song and the thrilling call of curlew, there will be an eerie silence. However, you will be able to hear the deep thrum of the turbine blades slicing through pure mountain winds. You won’t be able to spot the buzzards and eagles anymore; They will either have been bludgeoned to death by turbine blades traveling at over 100 mph or they will abandon their nests in these hills and be gone forever.
The spread of the wind farm cancer is all too evident from this map:
[CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE]
Highland Council’s own planning officer has recommended acceptance of the application even though Scottish National Heritage has voiced severe criticisms of the plans. This from Highland Council’s own report, from SNH:
8.146 In February/March 2012 SNH published, for consultation and public comment, a series of maps of Scotland highlighting relative levels of wildness. The mapping suggests that within the Monadh Liath SAWL, some of the highest qualities of wild land are found within the application site, as well as to the east and north-east. However, it is understood that the recent Glendoe development may not have been accounted for in the datasets used to underpin this work. This mapping is therefore a useful reference point, but cannot be relied upon in its entirety.
8.147 In support of its objection, SNH has expressed its disagreement with conclusions contained within the ES that the SAWL has already been compromised by recently-permitted development in the area, most notably Glendoe hydro-scheme, the Beauly-Denny transmission line and Corriegarth and Dunmaglass windfarms, and cannot now be considered ‘wild land’.
8.148 With particular reference to Glendoe, SNH’s position is that the impact of tracks
and other smaller-scale ancillary development is contained by the local landscape
character and that these elements have been designed so as to reduce landscape and visual impact. Additionally, unlike the Glendoe dam, the proposed turbines are large moving structures rising well above ground level, often located on higher ground, and are visible from far greater distance; pointing to ZTV prepared by them with show that the Stronelairg turbines would be twice as visible as the existing Glendoe tracks.
8.149 SNH states that although they acknowledge the area now has a reduced sense of wildness as a direct result of changes brought about by recent development “...it still displays all the attributes and allows the experience of wildness that combine to consider the area of high wildness” and that the area affected by existing development “...continue to make a valuable contribution to the wider area of wild land”.
8.150 SNH concludes by stating that the sensitivity of the wild land resource in the area remains ‘high’, which is not reflected in the ES, and that the impact of the development on the SAWL is not ‘slightly adverse’ and promoted in the applicant’s assessment. Permitting this development would, in SHN’s opinion, result in the SAWL being compromised and its continuation being brought into question.
Unbelievably, even though this wind farm will be in a designated search area for wild land and the Scottish Government’s own agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, is objecting to it, Highland Council’s own Planning Officer is recommending acceptance.
You can see the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s thoughts on Stronelairg HERE
So, mark Tuesday 19th February in your diaries. It could well be the day that Highland Council sentences the Monadhliath to an ugly, industrial death.
TUESDAY 19th FEBRUARY UPDATE:
This morning, Highland Council voted by nine votes to seven to carry out a site visit. Interestingly about half the councillors didn’t want to go on the site visit because “it was too remote.” I think that this demonstrates quite well why this area should be saved – it’s wild land a long way from anywhere! It’s Impossible to get the feel and sense of an area without a visit. At last some of the councillors understand what it’s all about!
Again, Councillor Kerr, a paragon of common sense, said that it would be doing the public a DISSERVICE if there was no site visit and the proposal would not be properly assessed. Well said that man! Councillors Dave Fallows & Margaret Davidson were also adamant that the committee should visit the site.
The decision this morning is likely to cause months of delay, because, as one councillor pointed out, access to the development could be hampered by bad weather well into spring, saying that there is often snow in June.
No date has yet been set for the site visit.
A report of the meeting can be found in the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald by clicking HERE