SWLG response to Stronelairg wind farm proposal

Objection to Stronelairg Wind farm proposal (Highland Council Ref: 12/02560/S36)

August 2012

The Scottish Wild Land Group objects to the proposal for a windfarm at Stronelairg made by Scottish and Southern Energy. This proposal involves the construction of 83 turbines of 133 metres in height, with associated foundations and access tracks, on an area of high peat moorland in the Monadhliath mountains.

Our primary objection is on the basis of the devastating impact that the windfarm would have on wild land. The developer’s claim that “there will be no significant impacts on wild land quality” is quite clearly untrue. The windfarm is planned for undeveloped upland areas with altitudes of up to 750 metres in the centre of the Monadhliath mountains; a sensitive and, notwithstanding the proximity of the Glendoe hydro scheme, wild area. The visual intrusion will be substantial, particularly as the highest turbines will be higher than many of the surrounding hills, making them visible from large swathes of the Monadhliaths themselves (including SNH’s Monadhliath Wild Land Search area), the Cairngorms National Park, and high ground around Loch Ness.

The impacts on wild land will not only be visual. The construction of more than 51 miles of access tracks and excavation of over 1.5 million tons of rock from 20 borrow pits will obviously cause huge environmental damage at the local scale, and will industrialise the entire landscape. The fact that the development will be constructed primarily on peatland (including areas where the depth of peat is more than 1 metre) not only poses serious questions about the carbon ‘cost’ of the development, but means that environmental damage will be especially severe, with dramatic changes to the hydrology, and therefore ecology, of large areas of blanket bog. These are widely recognised as internationally important habitats.

This will, of course, have consequences for the wildlife of the area. In particular, the potential for further damage to Golden Eagle populations is great. It must be recognised that the current population has suffered from serious and long-term persecution in this area, and so does not represent a suitable baseline from which to calculate the impact of this development. The Monadhliaths are prime habitat for eagles, and efforts should be made to restore population levels (not least for their economic value through tourism) rather than damage them further. The developer’s proposal that eagles will be attracted away from the windfarm by a habitat management plan is, for this reason, undesirable. It is also meaningless, as its success has not and cannot be assured, and the development will not of course be removed if it proves unsuccessful.

Finally, the cumulative impact of this and nearby windfarm developments is severe. Windfarms at Farr, Dunmaglass and Corriegarth have been constructed or approved, with at least three others (Moy, Allt Duine and Dell) at some stage of the planning process. Together with these, the current (particularly large) proposal involves the near -wholesale industrialisation of the Monadhliath mountains (and is certain to be used as justification for future developments in the remaining unaffected portions of the range). This must not be permitted without proper consideration of the hugely detrimental impacts on ecology, landscapes, wildlife and tourism that would result, especially in the absence of a coherent and publicly-accountable plan for the Monadhliath mountains.

For these reasons, we believe that this proposal would cause unacceptable damage to large areas of wild land, and should be rejected.