THE Scottish Government’s approval for the 22-turbine wind farm at Creag Riabhach near Altnaharra sends a worrying signal to all those who wish to see wild Scottish landscapes underpin the sustainable development of the Highlands.
Up until now Ministers had held true to the intent of their own planning policy and rejected industrial developments in what they themselves had identified as wild land of national importance. These areas were identified following an extensive public consultation and based on a rigorous methodology.
The simple fact is you cannot accommodate industrial developments in these places without fundamentally altering their character and destroying their appeal to the millions of tourists that are drawn to their unique qualities. Turbines towering 125m high above upland landscapes exert a visual impact far beyond their physical footprint.
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The rapid success of the North Coast 500 testifies to the potential for kick-starting sustainable economic growth through tourism in the region. Wind farms have their benefits, not least in helping to address the challenge of climate change, but building them on peatland in wild land is short-sighted and will harm the interests of the many to profit the few.
Scottish Natural Heritage, the government’s own advisors, seem clear on this point: they objected to Creag Riabhach on these grounds. Scottish Ministers need to urgently clarify their commitment to protecting wild land and issue guidance to developers and local authorities that makes it clear that developments will not be consented where they destroy wild land values.
Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive, John Muir Trust, Tower House, Station Road, Pitlochry.