Trust responds to Creag Riabhach wind farm legal ruling

Call for greater clarity for Wild Land Areas as court rules against Altnaharra wind farm challenge

S28c windfarm glacier blue detail

The John Muir Trust notes today’s ruling by the Court of Session over the judicial review taken out by Wild Land Ltd against the decision to consent the Creag Riabhach wind farm in Altnaharra.

The ruling does not express a view on the rights and wrongs of the application but focuses solely on the legality of the decision-making process. As Lord Boyd of Duncansby stated today: “In my opinion, there is no error of law either in the way in which they reached their decision or expressing their reasons for it. In short the petitioners’ position appears to be that no windfarm development whatsoever should be allowed on designated wild land areas. That may be, but that is a political decision and not one for the courts.”

The Trust believes that the controversy over Creag Riabhach does demonstrate the political case for bringing the level of protection for Scotland’s 42 Wild Land Areas into line with National Scenic Areas and National Parks.

The Wild Land Areas map was published by SNH in 2014 and subsequently promised ‘significant protection’  in Scottish Government planning policy. Since then a number of wind farms applications in and around Wild Land have been refused consent by the Scottish Government. But the decision last year to approve Creag Riabhach has created uncertainty over the status of the Wild Land Areas map.

Andrew Bachell, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said: “Although we were not part of this legal case, we were among the organisations which objected to the 22-turbine wind farm, which will extend into Wild Land Area 37.

“We were surprised and disappointed by the original decision, not least because it seemed to fly in the face of eight previous decisions by the Scottish Government to reject major energy developments affecting Wild Land Areas.

“We would now ask the Scottish Government to use the forthcoming Planning Bill to bring consistency and clarity into the decision-making process by bringing Wild Land Areas into line with National Scenic Areas where major wind farm developments are deemed 'unacceptable' in Scottish Planning Policy.

“The current ambiguity in the status of Wild Land Areas devours time and money, and can involve councils, planning officials, energy companies, conservation organisations, government ministers, government agencies, lawyers and judges deliberating over a single application.

“Stronger protection would also be in tune with public opinion – a recent Scotland-wide YouGov poll found that 80 per cent agree or strongly agree that Wild Land Areas should be protected, with only 5 per cent opposed.”

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