OBJECTORS are lining up to express concern about the impact a proposed wind farm would have on Ben Wyvis — with a local laird and a mountaineering body being the latest to voice their opposition.
ABO Wind Ltd want to build five turbines at Woodlands Farm near Dingwall and has lodged a planning application for the small cluster of structures — three at 125 metres high and two at 110 metres.
However, its location below the iconic Munro which dominates the skyline from many parts of Ross-shire and beyond, has caused consternation amongst locals, visitors and mountain climbers who describe the Ben as being “under attack.”
Last week the Journal revealed the community council of a Black Isle village which faces the mountain and around 11 individuals were objecting on the grounds that it would spoil the view of the Ben.
This week another 30 people have sent in comments — virtually all objections — via the Highland Council’s ePlanning website, including the Earl of Cromartie.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has also told the Journal the proposed development is “an unacceptable escalation” of wind farm development in the area.
It says that while of limited impact on views from the summit plateau of Ben Wyvis, the turbines would have a significant impact on views to mountain.
MCofS chief officer David Gibson said: “Placing large vertical structures with moving blades between the very strong horizontal line of the coast and the undulating form of the ridges on the Ben Wyvis massif would introduce an intrusive and thoroughly discordant visual element into the landscape.
“That impact is completely unacceptable.
“We have also taken into account the fact that there is already an operational turbine at Dingwall with three more approved in the same area as the Woodlands proposal and another at Culbin Farm which is at the scoping stage.”
Mr Gibson said: “This application is an acceleration of that process of development, increasing the number of turbines applied for and increasing their size. If approved, this is something that other developers would undoubtedly seek to exploit, given that there are no clear plans in place for the eventual number of wind farms or turbines to be permitted here, or anywhere else in Scotland.”
The Earl of Cromartie at Castle Leod, the Chief of the Clan Mackenzie and an accomplished climber, was the first to speak out against the 17-turbine Clach Liath Wind Farm on the Ben range which came to nothing after it was refused by planners.
The earl has now objected to the Woodlands development.
He wrote: “Once again Ben Wyvis and its foreground are under attack from the Woodlands Wind Farm application.
“This is the ‘daughter’ of the Clach Liath Wind Farm which was refused and if this current application should get approval then it opens the floodgates for yet more turbines on this mountain and the southern and eastern foothills.
“The iconic view of Wyvis should be left as it is for residents and visitors to appreciate and the comments made by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland taken on board. Please consider the visual impact before rushing in and destroying something very precious for the local people and consider what may be the visual legacy especially if other wind developments should accrete nearby.”
SEPA has also indicated that it will object to the Woodlands proposal unless turbines four and five are moved outside of the blanket bog and wetland areas into grassland.
The environment protection agency has also proposed a number of conditions relating to a water buffer scheme, micro siting, construction management and an aftercare plan.
There are now 40 public comments on ePlanning regarding this proposal.
One objector, Will Snow, wrote: “Wind farms have now reached their carrying capacity in Easter Ross. If this proposal goes ahead, it will not only obscure the view from my house but also permanently change the natural iconic view of Ben Wyvis when heading north up the A9.”
Another objector Heather Shand said: “To find that not only is there going to be more wind farm development here, but it is to be sited at such an iconic location is truly shocking,” she said.
Objector Derek Arnot said it would be a “tragedy” to erect such an ugly structure in such a beautiful area and George Lindsay believes it would
“totally despoil this iconic part of Scotland”.
John Graham says a company with no interest in the Highlands wants “to trash it for a few turbines and a pot of money”.
“Tourism is the life blood of the Highlands and we must protect that income as an established industry with a strong future. Not some foreign adventurers reliant on subsidy life support,” he said.
ABO Wind has previously said the sensitivities relating to Ben Wyvis has significantly influenced its whole approach to the design of the wind farm. The company believes cutting the number of turbines by one, reducing the height of two of turbines, as well as the hollow in the landform, helps minimise visual impacts.