A mast has already been installed at the Stronelairg site. Photo: Karl and Ali CC-BY-SA-2.0

A mast has already been installed at the Stronelairg site. Photo: Karl and Ali CC-BY-SA-2.0

A leading conservation charity expressed disappointment at councillors’ approval of plans for a windfarm in the Monadhliath Mountains.

The John Muir Trust called on the Scottish Government to hold a full public inquiry into proposals for the Stronelairg windfarm.

Highland Council voted not to object to SSE Renewables’ scheme to build 83 turbines, up to 135m (443ft) tall, but did impose extra conditions.

Members of the planning committee voted by 11 to three to raise no objections to the windfarm after a site visit yesterday. The council said, though it was a consultee, the decision on the plans will be made by the Scottish Government.

Helen McDade, the John Muir Trust’s head of policy, said: “We are disappointed that the majority of councillors chose to ignore expert opinion from bodies which include Scottish Natural Heritage, the Cairngorms national park, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the John Muir Trust.

“But despite this setback, the fight to save the Monadhliath Mountains will continue.

“Reports this week have suggested that the Scottish Government is open to wild-land protection, but once we industrialise any area of wild land, it is gone forever.

“If this proposal goes ahead, one of Scotland’s core areas of wild land will disappear under a forest of steel turbines the height of the Forth Bridge, spread across an area of peatland the size of a small city.

“Given that SNH, the official agency overseeing Scotland’s landscape and ecology, maintains a substantive objection to the proposal, it would be normal practice for the Scottish Government to call a public inquiry to ensure that full complexity of the Stronelairg development is fully explored.

“It is vital that there is, for example, an in-depth assessment of the permanent damage to the ecology of the area that would be wreaked by excavating up to a million tonnes of rock from sensitive peatlands to build the infrastructure of the site, which will include concrete foundations and 40 miles of access roads.

“The Monadhliath Mountains are a national asset of cultural and geographical significance for the whole of Scotland.

“We would strongly urge the Scottish Government to heed the views of those members of its own party on the council who voted to object to this development.”

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