Environment charity wins legal battle against wind farm

Picture: Jon Savage
Picture: Jon Savage
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A environmental charity has won a court battle to overturn a Scottish Government decision to give the go-ahead to a new wind farm on wild land in the Highlands.

The John Muir Trust (JMT) won a judicial review at the Court of Session after a judge said the Scottish government’s decision to approve a 67-turbine wind farm at Stronelairg near Fort Augustus was “defective”.

Lord Jones said ministers reached their decision on SSE Rewnewables’s Stronelairg project at the Garrogie estate was “in breach of environmental obligations”.

Lord Jones ruled in his decision released yesterday that members of the public had been denied the opportunity to comment on a revised planning application for the proposed wind farm, and that Scottish Ministers did not take into account Scottish Natural Heritage’s objection in principle to any wind farm development at Stronelairg.

The development which was given the go-ahead by energy minister Fergus Ewing last July would have extended over an area the size of Inverness.

At the time it was estimated electricity generated by the wind farm could power 114,000 homes. Operators said it would bring £30 million worth of economic benefits to the region.

However, the JMT argued the development would “destroy the character” of an area of wild land in the Monadhliath Mountains and lodged a petition at the Court of Session asking for a judicial review of his decision.

The JMT said 70 per cent of the Stronelairg consists of wet peatland, describing it as “Scotland’s miniature version of the rainforest” saying it would have faced severe disruption by the excavation of 22 million cubic feet of stone from the area.

Stuart Brooks, the trust’s chief executive, said: “This is great news for all those who love Scotland’s wild land and wish to see it protected. A financial appeal brought a tremendous level of support from over a thousand well-wishers, allowing the trust to proceed. Lord Jones has now decided the trust’s court action was well-founded.

“Due to the impact this approval had on a wild land area – which led to Scottish National Heritage removing a significant area from its Wild Land Areas map – the trust very reluctantly took this judicial review against the government.

“Crucially, in rejecting an argument by the Scottish ministers that the trust was not prejudiced by the minister’s decision,

“Lord Jones concluded 
that the trust was taking the action for the public good”.
A spokesman for SSE said: “We are disappointed with the result of the judicial review of the consent decision for Stronelairg wind farm.

“We will now review the judgment in detail and consider our options accordingly.”

sross@scotsman.com