Power company WKN Windkraft Nord AG (WKN) wants to develop a major wind farm near Loch Shin. If built it will be visible from many of the iconic mountains of northwest Scotland. The MCofS is urging hillwalkers and climbers to object. But the deadline for any comments - negative or positive - is imminent.
The 'Sallachy' development on the north-west shore of Loch Shin is for twenty-two turbines, with an installed capacity (a theoretical maximum output) of up to 66 MW. The name is arguably somewhat misleading. Its location is not near Sallachy at the southeast end of Loch Shin close to Lairg, but on a hill above Duchally Lodge, near the head of Glen Cassley.
Among other hills, the wind farm will be visible from summits as far apart as Ben Hee, Seana Bhraigh, Ben Hope, Beinn Leoid, Arkle, Quinag and Ben Klibreck. But the most immediate landscape impact will be on the Ben More Assynt range, to which the development site is adjacent.
The vast openness of the landscape may be Sutherland's unique selling point; it also means that the visual impact of major developments will tend to spread far and wide, say objectors. The site is almost surrounded by areas designated for their high scenic value, on which the wind farm will have a negative effect, it is claimed.
Within its sphere of influence are two National Scenic Areas, Northwest Sutherland 20km to the northwest and Assynt-Coigach only 2.5km to the west. Special Landscape Areas in the locality include: Ben Klibreck and Loch Choire; the Fannichs, Beinn Dearg and Glen Calvie; Eriboll and Whiten Head; Ben Grian and Loch nan Clar. Remote Landscapes of Value for Recreation in the area include: Srath an Loin on the east boundary of the proposed wind farm; Ben More Assynt 2.2km to the west; Ben Hee 8.5km north-northeast and Canisp and Suilven 14.5km to the west.
The site itself lies within an SNH search area for wild land.
Given its impact on so many areas valued for their wildness, why build a wind farm here?
The location of the wind farm seeks to take advantage of the strong wind resource found on the slopes above Loch Shin as well as the proximity to the existing Glencassley Hydro Power Station and the supporting infrastructure' say WKN, who have consulted with local residents about their proposal.
'The key concerns raised by people attending the exhibition focused largely on the landscape and visual impact of the proposed development as well as the potential impact on tourism in the area' they go on. 'These concerns are taken very seriously by WKN and since the exhibition we have continued to work to refine our Proposal to ensure that any potential impacts are minimised and any potential opportunities to make a positive impact on the socio-economics and tourism can be identified and developed.'
However these assurances are not enough to mollify objectors, including the MCofS.
'The MCofS considers that this is an appalling proposal and we object in the strongest possible terms to this development' says the organisation in its letter of objection.
'It will not be possible to mitigate the devastating effects of a wind farm development at this location to a level where the residual impacts are acceptable under the National Planning Framework, Scottish Planning Policy or to the many hill and mountain walkers and climbers that enjoy this area for its special qualities.'
'We do not believe this proposal, located in an area of wilderness and outstanding natural beauty, can be accommodated by the landscape.'
Comments on the proposal can be sent to the Scottish Government by email or by post to: Gemma Gallacher, Energy Consents Unit, Scottish Government, 4th Floor, 5 Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow G2 8LU. The deadline for public comments is 15 February.