In the last few days two controversial wind farm proposals have been turned down because of their impact on Scotland's wild land areas. Campaigners are hailing the decisions as landmarks in their battle to protect key landscapes.
Last week Beinn Mhor windfarm near Cannich was rejected following the dismissal of an appeal by developers. Though a small development, it would have had a big impact on the setting of Glen Affric, one of Scotland's finest wild landscapes and a National Scenic Area; and it was on this basis that the Reporter made the decision.
In a report explaining his reasoning, he said the enjoyment of people walking along the mountains on the northern periphery of Glen Affric would be seriously affected. Many of the objections to the proposal contained “passionate arguments” about the importance of this asset for recreational visitors, tourism, and as part of Scotland’s national heritage, he noted.
In conclusion, the report says: 'The very modest contribution that would be made to renewable energy generation falls well short of justifying acceptance of the various significant adverse effects that would be caused to local residents, recreation visitors, the visual and wild land qualities of the ridge along the north side of Glen Affric and on Beinn Mhor itself.'
The MCofS hailed the decision as 'positive news', and said they were pleased that the adverse effect on a wild land area was such a factor in the refusal.
Then yesterday came more good news for wild land campaigners, when Energy Minister Fergus Ewing rejected an application by Dorset firm Infinergy for a major wind farm adjacent to the East Halladale Flows Wild Land Area in Caithness.
Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust said:
'[T]his is ...a landmark decision of national significance. The refusal explicitly states that ‘significant weight should be attached to the policies protecting wild land’.'
'Coming on top of last week’s decision to reject the Bhein Mhor wind farm application near Glen Affric, it sends a clear message to developers that Scotland’s wild land is a valued national asset which merits strong protection.'
Following a Public Local Inquiry, the scheme was given the thumbs down because of its potential impact on the Wild Land Areas map, which was developed by Scottish Natural Heritage and underpinned by Scottish Government national planning documents in June 2014.
'The Scottish Government now has an opportunity to dispel all remaining doubts over the future of Scotland’s wild land by swiftly rejecting the three remaining applications for large-scale wind farms on wild land, at Glencassley and Sallachy in Sutherland, and Allt Duine in the Monadhliath Mountains' said Helen McDade.