SCOTLAND’S largest conservation charity is calling for backing for a legal bid to reverse the Scottish Government decision to allow a city-sized wind farm to be built in a scenic part of the Highlands.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing in July gave the go-ahead for a 67-turbine scheme that will cover an area the size of Inverness on the Garrogie Estate near Fort Augustus.
Approval was granted despite opposition from campaigners and the government’s own advisers.
The Stronelairg project will generate power for 114,000 homes and bring benefits worth £30 million to the region, according to developer SSE Renewables.
But the John Muir Trust (JMT) says the wind farm will “destroy the character” of a huge swathe of wild land in the Monadhliath mountains.
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Now the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is rallying support from its 320,000 members for the JMT, which has lodged a petition with the Court of Session requesting a judicial review of the decision.
NTS conservationists fear construction of the 135m-tall turbines will tear up important peatlands and pave the way for further developments in Scotland’s wilderness.
Chief executive Kate Mavor insisted the charity is not against wind farms but is “supporting this campaign on principle”,
She said: “We are not opposed to renewable energy developments by any means, so long as they are suitably located, are proportionate and subject to public scrutiny.
“We think there are serious questions to be answered about the way the Stronelairg wind farm was approved and what it might mean for Scotland’s wild lands.”
Terry Levinthal, director of conservation services and projects for NTS, highlighted the environmental impact of the green development, which borders a Special Area of Conservation.
“Ironically, construction will require thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete to be placed on top of significant peatlands and their ecosystems,” he said.
“These act as a natural carbon sink, tying up greenhouse gasses that could otherwise accelerate climate change.
“We find it particularly disturbing that the government’s own agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Cairngorms National Park Authority both objected to the development yet their protests were ignored.
“Given the precedent this enormous wind farm may set, the implications for the conservation of wild land are deeply concerning.”
JMT chief executive Stuart Brooks has welcomed the NTS support, which he says has given the campaign a “huge boost”.
“The NTS is speaking up on behalf of hundreds of thousands of people who care for wild places in Scotland,” he said.
“I hope others will now follow suit and our many individual voices will call out to protect what we see as priceless - our wild places that should be cherished and passed to future generations, not squandered for short-term profits.”
The NTS is contacting members by e-mail and social media, suggesting they can help by writing to politicians and donating to JMT’s legal fund.
A request for a protective expenses order was refused by the court, which means the charity could be liable for costs incurred by the government and developer if the action fails.
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