PLANS involving one of Britain's biggest private landowners to develop a windfarm of up to 140 turbines stretching for several miles in Dumfries and Galloway have been described as "insane" by conservationists.

Buccleuch and 2020 Renewables, a prominent windfarm developer, announced they are examining the potential for the significant windfarm in the Lowther Hills, between Sanquhar and Wanlockhead as part of a "major land use strategy".

Buccleuch is still pursuing an eight-turbine wind farm and hydro park at Glenmuckloch near Kirkconnel in Dumfries and Galloway.

If the new project proceeds, the partners say the economic, environmental and community benefits "could transform the area".

Preliminary discussions have been held among Buccleuch, 2020 Renewables, other local landowners, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Government. No decision to proceed has been taken to date and the Buccleuch say "a range of options are under consideration".

John Glen, chief executive of Buccleuch, said the proposed farm would make a "significant contribution to the Scottish Government's renewable energy targets".

He said: "We have a structured approach to land management that involves looking at land use from an economic delivery and environment perspective and what it can deliver for the local, regional and sometimes national interest.

"It appears to us that this area of land could potentially deliver more both economically and environmentally and provide more benefit to local and regional communities. At present, we are undertaking feasibility work into a number of proposals and will discuss the results of our work with consultees and the communities."

Buccleuch say the windfarm would create 300-400 construction jobs over a four-year period with 20-30 operational jobs on completion.

The company said the community benefit would be £5000 per MW in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines.

It said consultation will begin soon with Wanlockhead and other local communities.

But the news was greeted with shock by conservationists Scotland Against Spin who say it has "no place" in Dumfries and Galloway which already has over 200 operational turbines, with a further 333 consented, 260 awaiting consent and at least another 450 'at scoping'.

Linda Holt, of Scotland Against Spin said: "Adding another 140 to an area that by any measure is saturated is insane. Scotland will begin to overshoot its 2020 target for 100% renewable energy this year, and the last thing the country needs is more expensive, unsightly and unreliable wind energy.

"Communities receive peanuts while the landowner and operator trouser huge profits thanks to guaranteed subsidies."

The ninth Duke, Johnnie Buccleuch, who died in 2007 aged 83, said wind farms were inefficient as well as being a blot on the landscape.

In 2013 his son, Richard, 61, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch objected to a 17-turbine wind farm near Hermitage Castle near Hawick as "nothing short of vandalism".

A Buccleuch spokesman said: "Buccleuch's position, which does reflect the Duke's position, over wind farms has evolved over recent years. It has moved from a situation of being opposed to it to being in a situation where if the site was suitable, like a brown field site, and there was no better use of the land, then it is something they would look at.

"At one time they would have opposed just about every windfarm. There's a load of other windfarm applications in the area that they no longer object to."

Alan Baker, managing director of 2020 Renewables, said: "We are still in the early stages of this process and continue to develop our thinking. However, it is apparent that the site in question has tremendous potential to deliver economic and environmental benefit on a very significant scale."