SWLG response to Bhlaraidh wind farm proposal

Objection to Bhlaraidh Wind farm proposal by SSE, Glenmoriston Estate, Levishie forest area

August 2012

The Scottish Wild Land Group (SWLG) objects to Scottish and Southern Energy's Bhlaraidh windfarm proposal for the following reasons:

Impact on wild land:

The reduction of the number of turbines proposed to 36 fails entirely to mitigate the extremely significant visual impact on hill tops and higher ground entailed by the proposal. It reflects a very limited concept of landscape values on the part of the developer, particularly in an area that attracts visitors because of its relatively wild and unspoiled character. In our view, this development would be grossly out of scale and character with the hills and moorlands of the district. Together with existing wind power and pylon line developments above Glenmoriston, it comprises a hugely significant impact within an area accorded the highest status as wild land in the recently published map by the government's own conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage. Indeed, it entirely vitiates two of SNH's principal criteria for the definition of wild land; 'absence of significant human artefacts' and 'remoteness from roads and tracks'.

Each of the 36 turbines would be 135 metres (443 feet) tall. In addition, the location is at a high altitude (around and often in excess of 500 metres), which would mean that turbines would be increasingly visually intrusive as an observer gained height. The proposed site is highly visible from the contiguous 4,000 ha. Dundreggan Estate where the conservation charity Trees for Life is re-establishing native woodlands as part of their scheme to enhance the biodiversity of Highland Scotland. The SSE proposal could only grossly detract from this project.

Impact on tourism:

The developer asserts that the project is not expected to have adverse visual effects from 14 of 19 viewpoints identified by agreement with Highland Council and SNH. We believe this reflects a severely limited conception of landscape quality. A significant but unquantified proportion of visitors to this area, as to the Highlands as a whole, are attracted by the wild and open character of mountain areas. Visual intrusion of extensive and large scale wind farm developments from a few selected viewpoints is likely to be entirely beside the point for such visitors, whose appreciation of the Highland landscape is an holistic one.

Impact on peat:

The proposed development is to be constructed almost entirely on peatland habitats consisting of blanket bog and wet heath and includes many areas where the peat depth exceeds 1 metre. Peatland soils are recognized as a highly efficient carbon store, are fragile habitats and are very sensitive to changes in the hydrology due to disturbance. Excavation of the 36 turbine sites and the 24 km of road construction and borrow pits will have a very substantial impact on these important habitats and carbon sinks.

Impact on wildlife and habitats

The developer's claim that the impact of the development on "assessed ecological receptors" would be of negligible significance is absurd. In addition to the disturbance of peat involved in digging foundations for turbines and new and upgraded roads, questions must remain about the thoroughness of the ecological surveys that have been conducted. The site is immediately adjacent to the above-mentioned Dundreggan estate, where very detailed ecological research by 'Trees for Life' has led them to conclude that the area comprises 'a lost world of biodiversty' in which species considered rare or even regionally extinct have been identified (Trees for Life press release, 20-01-12, 'New discoveries in charity's "Lost World" Highland estate).

Cumulative Impact

Successive wind farm developments in the general area around Loch Ness are bound to have an adverse cumulative impact on an area that is internationally famous for its landscape qualities. A scree of similar and even larger developments including the Farr, Dunmaglass and Corriegarth windfarms have been approved and there are others in the planning process (Moy and Allt Duine) plus a further very recent scoping application (Dell wind farm) adjacent to Stronelairg. All of these are to be constructed in high mountain areas within the Monadhliath, another prime area of wild land in the Great Glen watershed according to SNH, resulting in a drastic reduction of the wild qualities of the entire area.

Impact on road network

The development would increase the already heavy burden of industrial and tourist traffic on the A887 Glenmoriston road and the A 82 Great Glen road which is already notorious for accidents, many of which regularly involve fatalities.

We conclude therefore that this development is contrary to 2010 Scottish Planning Policy paragraph 128 which states that planning authorities should safeguard the character of wild land. It is also profoundly at odds with the Scottish Government's declared policy of conserving and enhancing biodiversity.