The Glencassley site and Ben More Assynt

The Glencassley site and Ben More Assynt

Mountaineers have expressed their shock at the prospect of two new windfarms being built in one of Scotland’s national scenic areas.

Two separate plans for a total of 48 turbines at least 125m (410ft) height have been submitted for sites in Sutherland.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said the areas in which the turbines would be built are some of the nation’s most important remaining wild land.

Planning officers with Highland Council have recommended planning committee members should not object to the plans, despite councillors expressing their concerns recently about the development of windfarms in inappropriate areas.

SSE Generation wants to build a windfarm at Glencassley and WKN Sallachy has applied to build a similar installation at Sallachy.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and John Muir Trust have all raised strong objections. Both applications would have a severe impact on precious and unspoilt mountain uplands and intrude on the Assynt-Coigach national scenic area, the MCofS.

The Sallachy site near Loch Shin

The Sallachy site near Loch Shin

David Gibson, chief officer of the MCofS, said: “It will be truly shocking if Highland councillors vote in favour of windfarm proposals that would do such damage to the wild landscapes that make Assynt-Coigach so special.

“It would put councillors on the wrong side of the conservation debate, the wrong side of public opinion and would do a great wrong to the natural heritage they are supposed to protect, and which is so important to their constituents’ tourism businesses.

“Highland councillors have previously shown grave concern about the impact of inappropriate windfarms and we hope they will do the right thing and oppose these hideous applications.

“The Scottish Government has recently indicated in its national planning framework consultation that it may make small, but welcome moves, towards protecting national scenic areas from windfarm industrialisation.

“It would be deeply unfortunate if these wind farms were given a green light while the Government is consulting on these proposals.

“We are calling on minister Fergus Ewing to make a real stand for Scotland’s natural heritage and put a halt to wrong-headed proposals like these.

“Unless he takes serious action to keep wind farms well away from our remaining unspoiled mountain areas we risk a situation where natural wonders like Ben Assynt are swamped in a sea of turbines. Scotland deserves better.”

The MCofS said it believes that any proposal in this location would be a mistake, and two so close together would be disastrous because of their cumulative impact.

The organisation, which represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers north of the border, said the Sallachy and Glencassley planning applications also come during the Year of Natural Scotland, when the Scottish Government and the VisitScotland tourism agency say people should be celebrating the country’s natural heritage.

Mr Gibson added: “It is an appalling idea that a huge power company like SSE, which is behind the Glencassley proposal, could be allowed to make money from putting around two dozen industrial scale turbines on unspoiled and beautiful land during the Year of Natural Scotland.

“Right now there is a huge international publicity campaign inviting the world to come and enjoy our wide open space, just as SSE wants to smother them with turbines, 21km of tracks, concrete buildings and 80m masts.”

Oliver Patent, head of international development at WKN, said: “We are delighted that the application has met with the approval of the Highland Council planners and we hope this view is supported by Highland councillors when it goes to the north planning applications committee.

“Our Sallachy project is our first proposed development in the UK and represents a potential into Scotland of over £130m and the creation of over 70 new jobs.

“The planners’ recommendation is the first step forward in making this potential investment in the Highlands areality.

“WKN is aware of the debate surrounding wild land.

“In our discussions with local people in the area, we have concluded that the local people want windfarms that are sensitively sited and are not sited close to rural Highland communities.

“We believe our windfarm is sited in such a location and will bring many benefits to the Highlands and the local communities in the form of community benefit and employment.

“The area of our proposed windfarm has existing development, including hydro infrastructure, access roads and plantation woodland, and we believe it is well placed for a renewable energy project.”

Neither SSE had not responded to our requests for a comment at the time of publication.

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