The Scottish Wild Land Group (SWLG) is a volunteer-run charity established in 1982 to campaign for the protection and enhancement of Scotland’s wild land. We have long campaigned for coherent and balanced strategies for the management of Scotland’s internationally important environments, especially with respect to renewable energy developments. As the Scottish Government has recently recognised in its National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy documents, Scotland’s remaining areas of wild land represent our history and heritage, support a unique and diverse range of wildlife and bring welcome visitors and tourism to our countryside. They require robust protection from industrial development.

The SWLG wishes to strongly object to the proposed Caplich wind farm, which would be an unnecessary industrial development having very serious adverse impacts on surrounding wild land both in its own right and in combination with a number of other (operational and planned) wind farms in the area. In particular, we are concerned about substantial visual impact on some of Scotland’s finest landscapes, including but not restricted to Wild Land Areas 29 (Rhiddoroch – Beinn Dearg – Ben Wyvis), 32 (Inverpolly – Canisp), 33 (Quinag) and 34 (Reay – Cassley). The international status of these sites rests upon their unique landscapes, and is seriously threatened by the spread of industrial wind farms in this area.

Aside from the entirely insignificant contribution this wind farm would make to reducing anthropogenic carbon emissions, it would also contradict stated Government policies that “We also want to continue our strong protection for our wildest landscapes – wild land is a nationally important asset” (National Planning Framework) and “wild land character is displayed in some of Scotland’s remoter upland, mountain and coastal areas, which are very sensitive to any form of intrusive human activity and have little or no capacity to accept new development” (Scottish Planning Policy). Additionally, the site is extremely close to the River Oykel Special Area of Conservation (SAC), with the site access on the A837 only around 300m away from the SAC. The sheer extent of the proposed ground works, peat land disturbance (including the developer’s “conservative” estimate of nearly 90,000 m3 of peat excavation), drainage alterations and watercourse crossings are a major source of concern to us in terms of the potential effect on the unique habitat within the SAC. It is our view that given the scale and nature of the proposed works coupled with the disturbance to such a fragile peatland ecosystem, significant siltation will be impossible to prevent. This in turn will negatively impact upon the River Oykel Special Area of Conservation.

Further to our environmental concerns, we believe that this development is likely to have negative economic consequences for the local area. One of the principal reasons that visitors come to this area is to experience its wild landscapes and natural beauty. Across Scotland as a whole 90% of visitors give scenery as a major reason for their visits, and this factor will be of far greater importance in such a scenic area. The developer’s use of out-of-date research to estimate impacts on tourism betrays a lack of concern for the effects of this development on local livelihoods, but we believe that the wholly unnecessary squandering of the area’s most precious resource will inevitably have serious consequences. Many of the local hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have a short season and tight margins as it is, and it is therefore no surprise to us that many of these have objected to the proposal.