Great rejoicing in the (green) glens as Scot-Govt gives thumbs-down to new £80m Highlands wind farm plan

The open moorland site of the proposed Caplich wind-turbine electricity station in Sutherland.
The open moorland site of the proposed Caplich wind-turbine electricity station in Sutherland.

The Scot-Govt has rejected a bid by Muirhall Energy for planning permission to build a 68-MW wind farm project in the Highlands.

The £80 million Caplich project was turned down because the proposed 20-turbine wind farm near Lairg in Sutherland would have an ‘adverse effect on the surrounding landscape and impact visual amenity’.

While it was expected to make “a meaningful contribution” towards meeting Scotland’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets, it did fully not comply with all requirements under the Scot-Govt national planning policy, which operates a presumption in favour of new wind-powered turbine parcs development.

Muirhall Energy wanted to erect 20 x 3.4-MW turbines with a blade tip height of 433 ft, capable of producing enough electricity for some 40,000 homes per year.

Consequently, there was ‘rejoicing in the green Glens’ last night after the Scot-Govt rejected the Muirhall Energy plan.

This thumbs-down was warmly welcomed by the John Muir Trust.

The Public Local Inquiry into an application by Muirhall Energy for a 20-turbine development at Caplich in Sutherland, found that the proposed wind farm would cause “significant harm to Wild Land Areas 34 [Reay-Cassley] and 29 [Rhiddoroch-Beinn Dearg-Ben Wyvis] and would compromise the natural environment, amenity and heritage resources of these areas”.

In addition, a separate public local inquiry into an application from RES for a 13-turbine wind farm at Culachy near Fort Augustus concluded that it would “compromise the Braeroy-Creag Meagaidh-Glenshirra Wild Land Area and would not be “the right development in the right place”.

In one letter Scottish Energy Minister stated that these areas “are of recognised national importance”.

Andrew Bachell, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said: “We are delighted at these decisions and pleased that the Scottish Government is sending out a strong message that our wild and scenic places are of national importance.

“Since the Wild Land Areas map was approved in 2014, ten wind farms with a total of nearly 200 turbines have been refused because of their impact on these landscapes and ecosystems.

”We would hope that these latest decisions will help persuade developers to focus their efforts on less sensitive areas.

“We believe that there are better ways to secure a sustainable economic future than to compromise the landscapes for which the northern Highlands are known around the world.”

1 May 2018

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