The John Muir Trust has lodged a petition to the Court of Session asking for a judicial review of the decision on June 6 by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing to grant consent to a 67-turbine wind farm in the Monadhliath Mountains without a public local inquiry.
The decision was taken in the face of opposition from the government’s own advisory body, Scottish Natural Heritage; from the Cairngorm National Park Authority; and from three out of the four local councillors in Strathspey and Badenoch. Written objections to the development from the public outnumbered supporting letters by a margin of almost 15 to 1.
John Hutchison, Chairman, John Muir Trust, said: ‘‘Over the past year, the Scottish Government has made ground-breaking progress by adopting the new Wild Land Areas map of Scotland, and, for the first time, recognising wild land as an important national asset.
“However, we believe the decision by the Energy Minister to give the go-ahead to Stronelairg without a Public Local Inquiry is not consistent with Scottish Government measures to protect the best areas of wild land from industrialisation.
“This is the largest-ever wind farm approved in the Highlands, and was opposed by both the government’s own advisory body on nature and landscape, SNH, and by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
“Because of the scale of the development, and the breadth of opposition to it, we believe it should have been the subject of a Public Local Inquiry. In the absence of proper democratic scrutiny, our Trustees feel we had no choice but to seek a judicial review of the decision.
“The Trust is now seeking donations to help us take forward this legal action.”
Stronelairg is in the heart of the Monadhliath Mountains, which had been proposed as a Core Area of Wild Land by SNH at the time of the Energy Minister’s decision to approve the scheme. Subsequently, the Scottish Government asked SNH to remove Stronelairg and the surrounding area from the final version of the Wild Land Areas map.
The Scottish Government on August 21 rejected a smaller development at Glenmorie, citing proximity to wild land as one of the key grounds for refusal.
Earlier, Colin Nicol, Lead Director of Wholesale Generation Development, said: “SSE is delighted with the decision from Scottish Ministers on Stronelairg wind farm, it is a fantastic project which will bring real socio-economic benefits to the Great Glen area including job creation, skills training, business opportunities and substantial community funds.
“We estimate as much as £120 million could be secured by Highland and other Scottish companies, and that significant local employment opportunities will be created. In addition, SSE will be providing up to £30 million of community funds for 25 years from the construction start.”