Stronelairg update December 2013
Update into Trust legal action into Stronelairg wind farm case.
In summer 2013, the John Muir Trust lodged a petition to the Court of Session for a judicial review of the decision of the Highland Council South Planning Application Committee to conditionally raise no objection to a proposed 83-turbine wind farm at Stronelairg in the heart of the Monadhliath Mountains. The Trust’s case centred on the fact that the Highland Council chose not to object to the planning application on wild land grounds. In this respect legal advice to the Trust was that this was a valid case.
The first stage in the legal process was to apply for a Protected Expenses Order (PEO) to mitigate the risk of exposure to potentially very considerable legal fees. The PEO exists to enable people to take forward a case for the public good regarding the environment, without it being prohibitively expensive. At the Court of Session hearing into the PEO in October, the Trust was refused the PEO based on the judge's decision that the Trust could afford to proceed with the case without it. The judge did, however, agree that the Trust challenging the Council at this point in the process was a correct challenge. It was not his job to rule on the substance of our challenge.
The Trust is understandably disappointed with the decision regarding the PEO. However, as a result of initiating the legal action, the Trust has been able subsequently to negotiate a joint statement with the Highland Council. This statement acknowledges several key points about the importance of wild land in planning, and the need for consistency when the Scottish Government makes decisions on that basis.
In view of this progress with the Highland Council, and since the Trust is not in a financial position to risk proceeding down the legal route without a PEO, the Trust has withdrawn from its judicial review. However, it remains the Trust’s view that a Public Inquiry into Stronelairg and other key wild land cases is essential. It is the Trust’s intention to work towards that outcome, and a decision in favour of protecting wild land at such Public Inquiries.