December 20th was the day Highland Council was to decide whether to accept or reject the proposed Allt Duine wind farm, which would see 31 turbines, the majority 125 metres (410 feet) high, erected only a few hundred metres from the borders of the Cairngorms National Park (see my post for September 24 – Allt Duine: A Landscape Under Threat). To make the point that this is a wind farm too far the Save the Monadhliath Mountains campaign asked objectors to gather outside the Council offices to show our feelings before the meeting took place.
Having been agreed to be a spokesperson for the campaign I was asked to arrive just after 8 a.m. to do a live interview for BBC Radio
the demonstration or Council meeting began. Now this may not sound unduly early
but to get there by that time I had to walk by torchlight down the half-mile
track from my house to the nearest road where my car was parked as the track
was too icy for it, scrape the ice off my car, hope that it would start and
then drive 40 miles on icy pre-dawn roads. As the first 20 miles were on ice
and snow covered roads that hadn’t been gritted they were rather slow and I
turned up a little late to find a lone reporter standing in the dark freezing car
park wondering where the hell I was. Due to my lateness there was no time to
prepare and I went straight into the interview. I’m told it sounded okay! Scotland
The reporter then departed and I was the one standing alone in the cold. Hanging around feeling cold in an empty car park seemed an unattractive idea so I went off in search of a coffee. The exercise warmed me up, especially as I struggled to stay upright on icy pavements, though no coffee was forthcoming. The spreading pink dawn reflected in the swollen River Ness was pleasant to gaze at however. Back at the Council offices I found the first batch of demonstrators, a half dozen or so, clustered outside. Then we discovered that the Council meeting had been put back so the Councillors could go on a site visit to a smaller wind farm they were also to discuss that day. Having waved them off on their tour bus we decided hot drinks were a good idea whilst they were gallivanting so another café search was undertaken. It now being past 9 a.m. this was successful and we were soon warm and hydrated and ready to return to the fray.
Back at the Council again we found more demonstrators with placards and signs and the coffin from the Wake for the Wild event back in May plus the media in the form of TV, radio and newspaper reporters. Clearly the publicity about our action had attracted attention. As the spokesperson it was my job to be interviewed. Beforehand I had carelessly assumed this might mean three or four quick chats with reporters. Looking at the TV cameras and reporters queuing up I realised it wouldn’t be quite so easy going. In less than an hour I then gave around a dozen interviews, losing count as they came thick and fast. Throughout I tried to emphasise that this was a pro-landscape movement, that we were here to defend wild land and call for its protection and that the key word was location and in the case of the proposed Allt Duine wind farm the location was destructive and completely wrong.
Interviews over I joined the other demonstrators in the Council chamber to listen to the debate, the councillors now back from their site visit. That wind farm, for 20 turbines at Moy near Inverness, was rejected, on the advice of the planning officer, mainly because of the visual impact, particularly from the A9 highway and the
to Inverness rail line. It was then proposed
that the Allt Duine wind farm decision should be deferred so the councillors
could make a site visit. Why they hadn’t done this already seems a mystery as
they had already deferred the decision once before so there had been plenty of
time. As it is, they now hope to make a site visit early in January – if the
winter weather allows of course. As well as visiting the proposed site I hope
they will also visit various places in the Cairngorms National Park from which
the turbines will be clearly visible and very intrusive and not just be
concerned with the fact that the turbines won’t be visible from the A9 corridor
in Strathspey, which is the line the developers are pushing when they say the
wind farm will be unobtrusive. Overall though I think a deferment is a good outcome,
given that the planning officer had recommended that the Council accept the
application – even though the same criteria for rejecting the Moy wind farm apply
far more strongly to Allt Duine. The planning officer did accept that there
would some visual impact, saying that to avoid this the turbines should not
carry any signs or logos, which is a bit like saying you can rip a work of art to
bits but mustn’t then discolour the remnants as that would spoil it.
Now we wait to see what happens next year. The story has a long way to go yet.