As a Public Local Inquiry gets underway this week into an application for a 14-turbine wind farm at Carn Gorm, in the shadow of the popular Munro Ben Wyvis near Dingwall, the John Muir Trust will be called to give evidence.
In September last year, Highlands Council refused permission to the wind farm because of its potential impacts on official Wild Land Areas.
The developer, West Lothian-based PI Renewables, has used its right to appeal to hold a Public Local Inquiry into its application for the site, near Dingwall.
John Low, Policy Officer for the Trust said: “Highland Council did the right thing when it opposed this development. The potential impacts on wild land are significant, with eight of the fourteen turbines and their associated roads and infrastructure sited within Wild Land Area 29.”
“Unfortunately, the developer has refused to accept the decision and forced an expensive and time-consuming Public Local Inquiry – a right that would not have been available to those opposing the scheme had the decision gone the other way.”
Some or all of the 115-metre turbines would be visible from significant areas of Wild land Area 29 and beyond. It would also be visible from main roads and from the iconic ‘Kyle Line’ between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh.
A spokesman for PI Renewables said: “We always consult professionally and responsibly with the local community and try hard to accommodate any concerns.
“We never land-bank sites, but instead always rigourously develop those sites which we secure. This means we only take on sites that we are confident will secure planning and can be built. We establish this through undertaking significant up-front work and by continually reviewing the environmental impacts assessed throughout development. “
PI Renewables’ investment partners have included Mistral Invest, the investment arm of an international shipping company, Platina Partners, a European private equity firm and AES as construction partner.
As well as 64MW of wind energy already consented and progressing through construction, the company is currently developing over 100MW of new wind energy generation projects.
The PI Renewables directors are Darrin Rooney, Simon Morton and Thomas Forsyth. A related company registered in Hamilton – PI Renewables-2 – made a loss of £176,000 in the year ending February 2014.
Low added: “Ultimately the decision will be taken by the Scottish Government, which has recently refused consent for three proposed wind farms on wild land.
“By rejecting Carn Gorm, and two others in the pipeline further north, the government can send a strong message to developers that our wild land is not a commodity to exploited.”
“Essentially this Inquiry is about protecting wild land in line with national planning policy, which since 2014 has recognised wild land as an important national asset.”