BEN WYVIS anti-windfarm campaigners are celebrating after developers caved in to pressure and dropped highly controversial plans for 17 turbines to be built on the slopes of an iconic Highland mountain.
The “victory for common sense and local democracy” follows a two year fight by protesters against the proposal for the Clach Liath wind farm on Ben Wyvis.
Developers Falck Renewables Wind Ltd has announced they will not appeal the decision last month by Highland Council to refuse planning permission.
The contentious plan for 17 devices all 416ft high had attracted a massive 254 objections.
These included from high profile campaigners such as politicians Charles Kennedy MP and David Thompson MSP, the Earl of Cromarty, who is chief of the clan Mackenzie, broadcaster and mountaineer Cameron McNeish, and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (McoS), which has 11,000 members.
David Gibson, MCoS chief officer, said Clach Liath would have “industrialised” the slopes of Ben Wyvis, which can be seen from miles around and has spectacular views of the Highlands.
He added: “The news represents a victory for common sense, local democracy and the recognition that Scotland’s wonderful mountain landscapes should not be treated as an asset which can be milked for huge profits by multinational companies and landowners.
“It’s also a tribute to the many that have campaigned for this proposal to be scrapped.
“We hope that the principles which guided local councillors to reach this decision will be followed by Fergus Ewing, who as minister will have personal responsibility for making decisions on a large number of section 36 wind farm applications in the planning pipeline.
“Many of these proposed developments would, if allowed to proceed, ruin much of Scotland’s iconic highland landscape forever.
“We have been asking the Scottish Government to implement measures to safeguard Scotland’s mountains from such developments through the implementation of a national spatial planning policy for onshore wind farms.
“Unless protective measures are put in place, there will be more proposals like Clach Liath, which will threaten the landscape, cause local authorities to spend time and money on speculative planning applications, and threaten the livelihoods of tourism businesses in fragile rural areas.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government to show leadership now and protect Scotland’s finest natural asset - its landscape.”
Highland Council refused permission because of the “significant detrimental visual effects” to the Ben Wyvis Special Landscape Area and the mountain massive.
Charles Williams, director or development for Falck Renewables, said: “We initially pursued this site as an appropriate location for a windfarm because it lay outside the designated Special Landscape Area and was not located on areas which have special environmental protection, namely the SAC and SPA on Ben Wyvis for habitats and for birds.
“The site was more than two kilometres away from homes and fell within Highland Council’s proposed search area for wind farms.
“Having reviewed the decision by the council and taken account of the views of the statutory consultees including the local communities we have decided not to pursue an appeal.”
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “I am very glad that Falck have recognised the considerable opposition to their plans, and decided not to proceed with this development.
“This demonstrates how the planning system works for the community accepting some developments and rejecting others.
“While developments can bring economic benefits, and we have to recognise the importance of renewable energy, this proposed development would have had a severe impact on the community, and an unacceptable visual impact on the stunning views from the North side of the Black Isle.”
Bruce Morrison, chairman of Ferintosh Community Council, said: “I respect the developers for their common sense decision.
“The opposition was solid and we would not have welcomed a further expensive and unnecessary battle of views.
“This decision to stop development at Clach Liath establishes a very important precedent. The message to all landowners and developers we would hope is that the Ben Nevis Massif is a no-go area and far too valuable a natural resource to be tampered with.”