Highland planning officials ignore proposed national guidelines

Highland Council committee raises no objection to Glencassley and Sallachy wind farms.

The Highland North Planning Applications Committee’s decision to raise no objection to two major wind developments on core wild land areas, at Glencassley and Sallachy in Sutherland, underlines the need for clear-cut exclusion zones to be agreed at national level.

Helen McDade, Head of Policy at the John Muir Trust said: “Local councillors have numerous demands on their time and are understandably forced to rely on advice from planning officials, but the advice upon which this decision was based has been one-sided and misleading.

“Both the Search Areas for Wild Land, which are referred to in current planning policy, and the core wild land areas in Scottish Natural Heritage’s updated 2013 map should mean no major industrial development on these sites.  

“Also the recommendation in the Scottish Government’s Scottish Planning Policy draft consultation paper, that wild land character should be safeguarded, clearly shows the direction of Scottish Government thinking.

“The importance of these national guidelines has been downplayed by the Highland planning officials.”

Sensitive peatland

SSE proposes 26 turbines at Glencassley, while WKN plans 22 at Sallachy – all over 125 metres high. The windfarms will involve building access roads and concrete foundations on sensitive peatland.

“The Trust is concerned that not enough consideration has been given to the release of greenhouse gases by the degradation of peat soil, because the retention of gases in healthy peatland plays a vital role in locking in carbon and reducing greenhouse gases,” said Helen McDade.

“Meanwhile, far-fetched promises by the developers of jobs and financial windfalls appear to be accepted at face value by planning officials, even though other, similar, industrial-scale wind developments locally have created very few local jobs.

“The industrialisation of the Highlands under forests of steel turbines has been a bonanza for energy corporations and landowners, but little of that wealth trickles down into local communities.

“Rigorous scrutiny of these projects will require a Public Local Inquiry, and, since a statutory consultee, SNH, has put in an objection to both developments, the standard procedure would be that the Scottish Government would call such an Inquiry, regardless of today’s vote.

“Beyond that, the decision underlines the need for robust protection at national level for Scotland’s core wild land as mapped out by SNH. Wild land is not a commodity to be industrialised and exploited for profit, but a precious natural resource that should be protected and enhanced for future generations.”

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