Trust to give evidence at Culachy wind farm inquiry

Preparing to give evidence at an inquiry into the proposed Culachy wind farm at the historic Corrieyairack Pass near Fort Augustus

New hill track lichen 2 detail

In December 2015, Highland Council triggered a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) by objecting to the application by energy giant RES for a 13 turbine development inside Wild Land Area 19 (Braeroy-Glen Shirra – Creag Meagaidh).

Scottish Natural Heritage also opposed the scheme, pointing out that it would mean the loss of seven square kilometres of the Wild Land Area, and advising that the height of the turbines would “be out of scale with the landscape”. Of the 13 turbines, 12 would be almost 150m tall – among the highest anywhere in Scotland.

The Corrieyairack Pass is steeped in history: used for centuries by cattle drovers, the route was turned into a military road by General Wade in 1831 and later became the site of a major battle during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust, who will give evidence at the PLI, said: “The Corrieyairack Pass is designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is a popular route where families, mountain bikers and less experienced hillwalkers can get taste of wild Scotland.

“A wind farm on the scale proposed by RES would fundamentally change its character, and further erode a major area of wild land to the south and east of Loch Ness which has been steadily industrialised in recent years. Wild land is recognised in Scotland’s National Planning Framework as ‘a nationally important asset’.

“The Trust supports the Government’s aim of reducing carbon emissions by the most effective methods, and does not dispute the need for renewable energy projects. However, we do not believe that the Culachy wind farm is necessary to achieve these goals.

“Nor do we believe that this application is compatible with Scottish Planning Policy, which calls for wild land to be safeguarded against wind developments which significantly affect the character of the landscape.”

The Culachy Public Local Inquiry will take place in the Lovat Hotel, Fort Augustus, from 25-28 April.

Update 28 April 2017:

Helen McDade, for the Trust, put the case for protecting the wild land resource, highlighting that Scottish Natural Heritage’s view was that seven square kilometres of the Wild Land Area would be “lost” – impacted so badly it could no longer be considered wild land.  The Reporter listened carefully to evidence on the natural heritage and committed to walking the Corrieyairack Pass himself to appreciate the wildness of the area leaving the Trust hopeful of the right result. Culachy wind farm would be beside General Wade's Road through the Corrieyairack Pass, in Wild Land Area 19 - Braeroy, Glenshirra and Creag Meagaidh. [This panorama was produced by Highland Council and used as evidence at the Culachy inquiry. It pans through 360 degrees from a viewpoint Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh. As well as built windfarms, this includes windfarms consented but not built e.g Stronelairg.]

Update 30 April 2018 - the appeal has been dismissed by the reporter and planning permission has been refused on the basis that the proposed development would not be consistent with the significant protection accorded by national planning policy to wild land.