The view from Ben Hope, the most northerly munro, which would be affected by the planned development

The view from Ben Hope, the most northerly munro, which would be affected by the planned development

A conservation charity is urging councillors to reject a bid to build a 22-turbine windfarm on a remote hillside in Sutherland.

The John Muir Trust said the proposed Creag Riabhach development near Alltnaharra would be partly on designated wild land and would have a visual impact on another three wild land areas.

It urged Highland Council to overrule a recommendation of its planning officer and oppose the plans.

Scottish Natural Heritage, Visit Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland area are also objecting to the proposed Creag Riabhach windfarm.

SNH stated that the development would ’significantly and adversely affect wild land’ while Visit Scotland expressed concern over the potential negative impact on tourism.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust said it is alarmed at the impact on blanket bog, and on the government’s own climate change targets, while the Mountaineering Council of Scotland has pointed to the visual disfigurement of a key mountain landscape, which includes a number of popular munros and corbetts, such as Ben Klibreck and Ben Hope.

Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, said: “Given the breadth of opposition from expert bodies, it would be negligent of Highland Council to allow this application to proceed without the scrutiny of a public local inquiry.

“In our judgement, the planning officer’s report fails to address the wide range of negative impacts that this development would have on wild land, peat land and tourism. Nor does the decision reflect Scottish Government planning policy brought in last year, which gives greater protection to wild land areas.

“Highland Council needs to urgently review its planning policy and assessments urgently.

“The planning officer’s recommendation also appears to fly in the face of three recent decisions by Scottish Government ministers, refusing consent to windfarms in other wild land areas in the Highlands.

“The North Planning Applications Committee is to be congratulated for making the correct call in the past by objecting to four applications – Dunbeath, Glenmorie, Beinn Mhòr and Limekiln – against the recommendation of its planning officer. All four schemes were later refused by the Scottish Government, vindicating the decision of the councillors.

“In the interests of consistency, accountability and transparency, we would urge the North Planning Applications Committee of Highland Council to object to this application in order that it receives the rigorous scrutiny it deserves.”

The application for Creag Riabhach windfarm involves four turbines located within the boundaries of one area of wild land at Foinaven-Ben Hee, with a further 18 turbines sited next to the eastern edge of another wild land area and the western boundary of a third one, Ben Klibreck-Armine Forest. It would also be close to the wild land area around Ben Hope and Ben Loyal and one at Reay-Cassley, which is also under threat from three current applications.

The planning committee will meet on Tuesday to consider a recommendation from the planning officer to lodge no objection. If the committee decides to object, a public local inquiry will be triggered automatically.

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