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Trust says wind farm would change character of mountain pass

An impression of the turbines at the Culachy Estate
An impression of the turbines at the Culachy Estate

A new housing estate would damage the serenity of a tranquil mountain pass far more than the Beauly-Denny powerline and a windfarm, according to an academic speaking yesterday on behalf of a developer.

Heritage consultant Stephen Carter spoke at the start of a three-day hearing into plans by RES to build 13 towers, up to 490ft tall, on the Culachy Estate in the Corrieyairack Pass near Fort Augustus. The remarks came in a hearing session as a precursor to an appeal triggered by Highland Council’s rejection in 2015 of the plan.

John Thomas, a hillwalker from the Borders who has a holiday home at Newtonmore, agrees with the council that visual impact is a reason to reject it. Mr Thomas pointed out that the turbines would be visible almost a third of the way along the 14-mile pass – and breach Scottish Government planning guidelines.

Mr Carter, an academic with Edinburgh-based Headland Archaeology, suggested the existing presence of the Beauly-Denny powerline and approval for the turbines would not diminish the area’s remoteness – while “a substantial area of timeshare housing, amenities and facilities” would do.

Glasgow-based RES argues that the scheme is within an area identified by the council as suitable for windfarms. It claims the proposal, three miles south-east of Fort Augustus, would boost the local economy by £3.6million during construction and its first year.

Head of projects Simon Peltenburg said: “It will have very limited visibility from surrounding areas.”

Government agency Scottish Natural Heritage opposed the scheme, saying it would mean the loss of seven square kilometres of acknowledged wild land.

Helen McDade, of the conservation charity the John Muir Trust, said: “A windfarm on this scale would fundamentally change the character of the pass.”

The Corrieyairack Pass was used for centuries by cattle drovers. It became a military route in 1831 and later became the site of a major battle during the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.

It has since become a magnet for walkers and venue for the popular Corrieyairack Challenge charity races.

The inquiry, at the Lovat Hotel in Fort Augustus, is chaired by Scottish Government appointed reporter Robert Seaton who will present his findings to ministers. The investigation is expected to conclude tomorrow.

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