Scotland’s mountaineers have called on Scottish Natural Heritage to stand up to wind farm developers they believe are “playing the system”.
The organisation which represents mountaineers and hillwalkers across the nation, Mountaineering Scotland, is strongly opposed to the development of two wind farm proposals in the hills south-west of Garve in Wester Ross.
They describe the proposed developments at Lochluichart and Kirkan Wind Farm as opportunist, saying applications are being submitted in phases.
Stuart Younie, chief executive of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “What these further proposals do is spread development beyond the consented ones that were tested and constrained at the time of the initial application and following intervention by Scottish ministers.
“It is the opinion of Mountaineering Scotland that SNH needs to step in here as the guardians of natural heritage.
“SNH have said that they provide advice. We need more than this from them.
“They need to share in the responsibility to protect this mountain landscape and object to these two proposals, present the arguments that will lead to them being rejected and, if necessary, contest them in public inquiry.”
Mr Younie added: “The planning system can be exploited this way by industrial developers, but we have to remember that Scotland’s landscape is a precious resource. The Scottish Government has said this, and Visit Scotland banks on it.”
In response to the request, a spokeswoman for SNH said: “Consultations on these proposals are ongoing and, in line with our remit as a statutory consultee, we will carefully consider the impacts on nature and provide our advice in due course.”
The two wind farms were given planning consent in 2008 and 2011. For Lochluichart, 43 turbines had been applied for, but permission was granted for 17. In 2012, a 13-turbine extension was proposed, with consent given for six.
Mountaineering Scotland say that, now, two further applications are being made in the same general area – the Lochluichart Extension II (nine turbines) and Kirkan Wind Farm (17 turbines). These have both been submitted at the same time and neither refers to the other in its landscape appraisals.
A spokeswoman for Infinergy, behind the Lochluichart Extension II, said: “Scottish Natural Heritage is a statutory consultee in the planning process which provides advice to both the wind farm developer and the planning authority as well as giving their opinion on whether or not a proposal is appropriate in the landscape.
“Infinergy believes that the landscape around the Lochluichart and Corriemoillie cluster does have the capacity to support further development, and has been in discussion with both SNH and other statutory consultees throughout the application process.”
Kirkan Wind Farm is a joint venture between Coriolis Energy and ESB. They were both contacted for comment.