"Little To See" - looking over Glenmore Forest and Loch Morlich to the Monadh Liath from the road to Coire Cas
Rejection! By 9-3. That was the decision of the Highland Council Planning Committee about the proposed Allt Duine wind farm. A wonderful result.
I attended the debate and was impressed by the overall standard. I was also aware of growing tension – at least amongst the watching public – when it came to the vote. Although more councillors spoke against the scheme than for it I wasn’t sure how the vote would go, especially as the Planning Officer had recommended acceptance. The result left me feeling relieved and then aware that now we have to prepare for the coming public inquiry when all the same arguments will come up again.
The meeting began with a Planning Officer explaining why the Council should accept the scheme. His argument was not very convincing – at times he even seemed to be promoting the opposite view. He did say that the wind farm wouldn’t significantly affect
as most people wouldn’t see it. The visual impact would be confined to
hillwalkers. So Highland Council’s Planning Officer thinks that hillwalkers,
major contributors to tourism, can just be dismissed? It seems so. I wasn’t
alone in being unimpressed with the Planning Officer and the report to the
Committee suggesting acceptance. One Councillor, Roderick Balfour (Independent–
I’ve given political affiliations to show this isn’t a party political issue),
described one section as “meaningless spin” and said the report gave no real
reasons for acceptance. Cairngorms National Park
Of the contributions to the debate the most impressive came from David Fallows (SNP) who echoed the views of all of those of us objecting to the scheme (he represents my ward – I think he might have my vote!). He spoke lucidly but also passionately. This is a man, I thought, who understands. And not only about the visual impact but also the about the place itself, about the Monadh Liath and the Allt Duine. He talked of cresting the watershed and seeing the wildness and a beauty he described as esoteric. He also pointed out that wildness was an emerging issue in debates over landscape and that this was a wild place. Summing up he said there were two key points: proximity to the National Park and the wildness of the area. Exactly.
Stuart Black (Liberal Democrat) backed up David Fallows, saying he too appreciated the wildness of the area and that it was a place for solitude and long walks. The Monadh Liath, he said, were connoisseur’s hills and ones that could easily be spoilt and lost. Bringing up another important point Donnie Kerr (SNP) said he was concerned about golden eagles. He also mentioned the effect on tourism and said the area could be blighted by the number of wind farms planned, asking whether the Great Wood of Caledon would be replaced by the
of Wind Farms
I was heartened by hearing these comments. It’s good to know there are councillors who understand the importance of wild places.
Those who spoke in favour of accepting the wind farm seemed mostly to say it was in order to follow the advice from the Scottish Government, which I think begs the question as to why there should be a Council at all. Why not just bureaucrats to carry out Holyrood’s wishes?
Thomas Prag (Liberal Democrat) gave a rather puzzling speech in favour of acceptance in which he seemed to say the wind farm both would and wouldn’t have visual impact and that in the future people would find it odd that the
Highlands had been industrialised. I
felt sorry for Jimmy Gray (Labour) who also supported acceptance, as he said
there was little to see from Coire Cas. Little to see. The vast sweep of the
Monadh Liath rising above the loch dotted forests and Strathspey. How terrible
to look at that view and feel there was little to see.
After the meeting I did a quick round of interviews with TV and newspapers and discussed with a few other activists what happens next. There will be a Public Inquiry and we agreed that different groups needed to work together on this. Such Inquiries are hard work and require both funds and time – the developers have the money to employ expensive advocates. We don’t. But we are right. And that, I think, counts for a great deal.
Update: 19/01/2012 Alan Sloman has pasted a link to the recording of the debate here and listed the comments of the councillors in favour of the wind farm. Thanks Alan.