In its objection to the planning application by wind farm development company WPD, the MCofS has told Highland Council: “The proposal would severely impact on the important and iconic landscape of the Glen Affric area.”
The MCofS said the area was popular with mountain-goers and less-active tourists, and that a recent survey had shown people were less likely to return to places where wind farms were built.
MCofS Chief Officer David Gibson said: “A cluster of 120m-high turbines will inevitably act as a visual focal point and will affect the views from the entrance to the glens west of Strathglass and the Glen Affric hills north and southwest of Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin.
“Mountaineering is a substantial contributor to tourism and recreation spend in the Highlands, and we have direct evidence from a recent survey of MCofS members and British Mountaineering Council members that hill walkers are changing their behaviour to avoid areas with wind farms.”
He added: “The Affric area is not on a through-route open to passing trade – it is a destination which people choose to go to specifically because of its natural beauty. The spread of turbines is making our extraordinary landscapes seem increasingly ordinary. People don’t come to the Highlands for ordinary.”
The installed and consented capacity of onshore wind electricity generation in Scotland is, relative to its geographic area, now higher than Denmark and Spain and as high as Germany.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland recently undertook a survey to identify if the growing number of wind farms and their increasing reach into mountainous areas was having any impact upon mountaineering activity and whether the MCofS position on the areas of Scotland that should be protected from development properly reflected the collective view of its members.
There were 970 respondents. Two thirds (66%) were MCofS members and 159 were members of the British Mountaineering Council (including 53 who were members of both. Nearly one quarter (23%) did not state an affiliation. Three quarters (77%) lived in Scotland.
A substantial majority of MCofS respondents believe that wind farms are having an adverse effect on Scotland’s mountains, outnumbering those who believe there is no effect by three to one. The same is true of BMC respondents and those not stating affiliation, though the majorities are smaller, reducing to two to one for the last group.
A large majority supports the action that MCofS believes is necessary to preserve Scotland’s mountain assets: no wind farms in National Parks, National Scenic Areas, Core Areas of Wild Land and a ‘buffer zone’ around them.
MCofS respondents support this position by a majority of 10 to one over the option of having no blanket constraints (71% v 7%) and BMC members and respondents not stating affiliation by majorities of over five to one.
This survey suggests that a majority of mountaineers are discouraged by wind farms and their main behavioural response is to avoid areas with wind farms. Responses to all of the questions and across all affiliations and places of residence were consistent. Mountaineers living outside Scotland are less likely to visit Scottish mountains.