Representatives of the John Muir Trust – the Scots-born environmentalist revered in the USA as the founder of America’s great national parks – will be joined by cross-party MSPs at Holyrood this week to show the scale of support for the idea that Scotland’s officially recognised Wild Land Areas should be a no-go zone for large-scale commercial wind farms.
Within the current National Planning Framework, the Scottish Government states: “We also want to continue our strong protection for our wildest landscapes – wild land is a nationally important asset.”
However, in contrast to National Scenic Areas and National Parks, where windfarms are expressly forbidden, there is no clear-cut protection for Wild Land Areas.
And while a number of applications for commercial wind farms have been rejected because of their impact on wild land, one major development- at Creag Riabhach near Altnaharra was approved in 2016 – and other applications are awaiting a decision.
With a new draft Scottish Planning Bill due to be scrutinised by Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee next week, the John Muir Trust – along with Ramblers Scotland and Mountaineering Scotland – is calling for Wild Land Areas to be given the same level of protection as National Scenic Areas and National Parks.
Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust, said: “We’re holding this event at Holyrood this week to call for clarity in the status of Wild Land Areas.
“A YouGov opinion poll last summer found that 52 per cent “strongly agree” that Wild Land Areas “should be protected from large scale infrastructure, such as industrial wind farms, and super-quarries” – with a further 28 per cent tending to agree.
“Yet there is ambiguity in the planning process, leading to a continuing stream of applications, which have to be considered by planners, councillors, ministers, local communities, government agencies and environmental charities. This consumes huge amounts of time and money for everyone involved.
“We see the Scottish Planning Bill as an opportunity to clear up the confusion by bringing Wild Land Areas into line with National Scenic Areas and National Parks. We believe this is a clean and clear-cut solution to an ongoing problem and would benefit everyone – including prospective developers, some of whom have spent huge amounts of money on speculative applications that have been ultimately rejected.”
* The ‘Keep It Wild’ gathering will take place at Scottish parliament on Wed 21 February, 12.30pm -1.30pm
19 Feb 2018