Judges mull verdict in ‘Wild Land’ appeal against SSE wind farm near Loch Ness

Stronelairg mountain-top landscape: Photograph Kevin Lelland
Stronelairg mountain-top landscape: Photograph Kevin Lelland

The final verdict from the Court of Session over the controversial Stronelairg wind farm proposal will not be announced until later this summer.

Last week, judges at the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh heard an appeal from the Scot-Govt. and SSE against a Judicial Review decision which had overturned a Scottish Government decision giving the go-ahead to the giant Stronelairg wind farm development in the Monadhliath Mountains near Loch Ness.

The successful Judicial Review had been taken by the John Muir Trust. A decision on the appeal is expected, at the earliest, in a couple of months.

Meanwhile, the Trust has been refused a Protective Expenses Order that would have limited its liability for costs – which could amount to a six-figure sum – in the Inner House of the Court of Session in the event of losing the main appeal.  The judgment was a split decision with Lady Smith and Lord Brodie finding against the Trust with Lord Drummond Young supporting the Trust’s case.

Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive, John Muir Trust, said: “While we await the decision of this latest appeal, it’s disconcerting that the refusal of a Protective Expenses Order means that in taking on this issue in the public interest, as was noted in the Judicial Review decision, we will have to continue to ask members of the public to dig deep into their pockets to challenge a decision that was ruled unlawful.”

The John Muir Trust has been fighting the proposed Stronelairg development since 2012. The wind farm application was approved by Scottish Ministers in June 2014 less than two weeks before the Scottish Government changed its national planning policy to afford more protection to wild land. 

For over a decade, Scottish Natural Heritage had been identifying key wild land areas in Scotland, and this process culminated on 16 June 2014 with the publication of a Wild Land Areas map, with significant protection being given to wild land areas identified on that map.

A consequence of the wind farm being consented to prior to the publication of the Wild Land Areas map was that the central part of the Monadhliath Mountains (where Stronelairg is located) was expressly excluded from the map.

The decision to grant consent by Scottish Ministers went against the advice of the Scottish Government’s own advisors Scottish Natural Heritage – who advised that a wind farm should not be built at Stronelairg because of its Wild Land qualities.

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