The John Muir Trust is urging Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee to object today to proposals to build two new windfarms in Sutherland – one of which is on land owned by Mohammed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian businessman who formerly owned a grocery shop in London.
The trust has written to all councillors on the committee regarding the Glencassley and Sallachy sites in the light of new national planning policy guidelines and the publication by Scottish Natural Heritage earlier this year of the official Wild Land Areas map of Scotland.
The Glencassley estate is owned by an offshore company registered in St Helier, Jersey. The proposed Sallachy development straddles the Sallachy estate, which is owned by a German registered company, and the Duchally estate, which is owned by London-based Al Fayed.
In May 2013, the committee decided not to object to the two proposals after planning officials pointed to uncertainty in the Scottish Government’s attitude to wild land protection from wind farms.
Since then, the Scottish Parliament has approved a new National Planning Framework that states ‘We also want to continue our strong protection of our wildest landscapes – wild land is a nationally important asset.’
In addition, Scottish Planning Policy 2014, agreed by the Scottish Government explicitly states that “Plans should identify and safeguard the character of wild land as identified on the 2014 SNH map of wild land areas.”
The boundaries of the proposed Glencassley and Sallachy wind farms both lie entirely within Wild Land Area 34 (Reay-Cassley).
And in August 2014, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing refused an application for a similar wind farm at Glenmorie in Easter Ross because of ‘unacceptable visual and landscape impacts’.
John Low, policy officer, John Muir Trust, explained: “The national planning regime has changed since the council last considered these proposals. Where there may have been some confusion in the past, there is now clarity.
“If these schemes are allowed to go ahead, 48 turbines – each three times the height of the Skye Bridge – would be scattered across an area officially mapped and defined as wild land.
“The integrity of the entire Wild Land Areas map would be compromised, and the commitments to wild land protection in the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy would be rendered worthless.”
“We are now urging councillors to reconsider both applications in the light of the spirit and content of new national planning policy and guidance.”