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Concerns aired over 'ring of steel' tightening round Cairngorms National Park

By Gavin Musgrove

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The turbines of Dunmaglass wind farm under a low blanket of cloud.
The turbines of Dunmaglass wind farm under a low blanket of cloud.

Concerns over 'the ring of steel' forming round the Cairngorms National Park have one again been aired but planning committee members have said they are powerless to do much about it.

Renewable Energy Systems (Ltd) is seeking consent for 16 turbines with a maximum height of 149.9m to the tip of the blade at Cairn Duhie north-west of Grantown.

The energy giant already has permission for 20 turbines at 110 metres to tip at the same site which was granted by Scottish ministers in 2017 despite strong opposition including from the park authority.

Members of the Cairngorm National Park Authority planning committee agreed at their latest virtual meeting with their planners recommendation not to object to the revised plans for the same site on Dava Moor.

In the past, members have acknowledged that there is little they can do to block most wind farm applications and that it is best to keep their power dry for when there are stronger grounds for objections.

The Scottish Government is the determining authority for proposed wind farms where the output is more than 50 MW which is the case for most developments.

The CNPA has a remit to comment on any effects on the landscape character and qualities of the national park.

All other matters including ecology, amenity and noise are assessed by Scottish ministers with advice from statutory consultees.

Speyside Glenlivet Moray councillor and CNPA committee member Derek Ross (Independent) had repeated his concerns. Picture: Eric Cormack. Image No.037208.
Speyside Glenlivet Moray councillor and CNPA committee member Derek Ross (Independent) had repeated his concerns. Picture: Eric Cormack. Image No.037208.

CNPA planning committee member Derek Ross said: "It seems to me that it is with great sadness that I see that we are moving from landscapes with wind farms to wind farm dominated landscapes.

"There is a difference between the two and the corollary of this is that we are in the north of Scotland going to have an almost completely industrialised landscape.

"I know that there is very little that can be done by us as a national park authority under the constraints but we are individuals who are concerned with the environment around us and I certainly am very very concerned by the national park being surrounded now by wind farms.

"It is a comment – I have made it before – and I will no doubt make it again.

"The jury is out on whether there is a huge environmental benefit in wind farms in terms of the amount of peat taken out of the landscape, the rare metals that are used and the amount of hill tracks that are ploughed into the land."

Fellow committee member Willie Munro also expressed concerns on the raft of amended applications coming before the authority for consultation.

He said: "We have to work within the planning system that is set down but there does seem to be a pattern of incremental change: an application is consented and then comes back with higher blade dimensions and taller towers.

"I appreciate that technology is changing all the time and that we need to move to renewable energy.

"But I do sometimes wonder if in the past we had been presented with what we have now whether we would have come to the same conclusion.

"I am worried that the next one will be a little bit closer (to the boundary) and a little bit bigger and we end up with something that really does have a significant effect and we can not actually do anything about it."

Nina Caudrey, CNPA planning officer, had told members in her report that the principle of a wind farm at the location has already been established through the consent in 2017.

The proposed site is around 13.5 kilometres north-west of Grantown.

The development, if approved by Ministers, would also include approximately 8.3 kilometres of new permanent access tracks as well as other infrastructure and works such as substation, underground cabling and borrow pits.

The Cairn Duhie wind farm will have an estimated total installed capacity of around 67.2MW dependent on the turbine specification.

The nearest turbine would be around 10 kilometres to the north-west of the closest part of the national park boundary.

Ms Caudrey had said visibility of the proposed wind farm would be limited from within the park itself.

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