Tuesday 17 January 2012

Allt Duine Wind Farm Rejected

"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 Cairngorms National Park 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.

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 Forest 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.


  1. Great result. I commented on your other post earlier this evening. As you say, now begins part two of the battle.
    Well done and good luck. I've just finished reading a book, The Wind Farm Scam, in which it states the average base load is c.26%, which is much less than the 40% that is often touted by the pro-wind fraternity.

  2. Well done, Chris. A really, really good result, especially so considering the Planning Officer's recommendation to accept.

    Now the work has to start in earnest, to ensure that the Government doesn't overturn this.

  3. Really, really great. So pleased. I know I am a Southerner but there is nothing to stop me moving North except, that is, for a skyline of turbines and myriad foothills raped by access tracks.

  4. Heart warming news, lets hope there's more to come.

  5. Hi Chris,
    well done to everyone involved in the campaign. It is very good news. I realise that there is still alotto do in preparing for the public enquiry.
    Best Wishes,

  6. Well done Chris

    A great result for the wild, it is only the start! If I can ever help let me know.

    Regards Heavy

  7. A really BIG thank you to everyone involved in the various campaigns, meetings and actions. Well done to all.

  8. Thanks for all your hard work on this Chris. Sounds encouraging but this is only the beginning. The value of wildness and tourism plus the hillwalker's point of view at last seems to be appreciated by some of those in power.

  9. congratulations to all involved!!.
    nice to see the right decsion has been reached.
    how ironic will it be if donald trump gets one blocked aswell!!?.
    big buisness v's big buisness in the ring together...

  10. Hopefully this decision is an indicator that developments will from now on be scrutinised and weighed on their merits, rather than just railroaded through.

    Well done to yourself, Chris, and all who played a part in arguing the case for the defence of the wilderness.

    The "little to see" comment reminds me of a similar one made about the hills of mid Wales when a turbine proposal was being debated: "It's an ideal location for them; there's nothing there". I suppose it depends on your definition of nothing.

  11. Sorry to put a damper on this but I bet they will win on appeal. Approval by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing is a given.

    In recent years my wife and I together with hundreds of other locals have opposed five wind factories close to where we live: To the SSE, a mere 1 Km away the 21 turbines are now almost complete on the Hill of Towie, to the West are Cairn Uish (22 turbines and a further 20 approved as addition to this site) and Paul’s Hill (28 turbines), To the SE are the Glendiffich Hills, the beautiful plateaux that runs from Cook’s Cairn (755m) across to Cairn Allt à Chlaiginn (621m) and Scaut Hill (606m) 59 turbines have been approved. It doesn’t end…there is now a proposal to erect 19 turbines on the hill of Brown Muir just 7K away.

    Despite local objections, despite proposals being rejected by the local Moray council the developers have always appealed to the Executive and have always won those appeals. The Nationalist government wants turbines and that is what they will get.

    Rob fae Craigellachie

  12. Rob - Don't lose heart. What you say provides all the more reason to keep up the pressure and the exposure. No-one ever achieved anything by giving up.

    Chris, if there's anything I can do from the edge of Suffolk other than raise awareness, please let me know.

    Everyone - spread the word and educate your friends to the intrusion, damage and inefficacy of these trophy structures.

    Don't give up.

  13. Carl, "don't give up" indeed. Wind farms have been turned down. And every victory is worthwhile. Rob, I know about those wind farms and it's a real shame they are going ahead. Carl, what everyone can do, whether in Scotland or not, is email Alex Salmond and Fergus Ewing, Energy Minister. Tourism is vital to the Highlands - and hillwalkers and mountaineers are a major part of that tourism. They both know that. The wind power companies say turbines don't deter tourists. Tell them it's not so! They can be emailed at scottish.ministers@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

  14. I thought 'our' side was presented pretty reasonably by the news media up here Chris. Usually the 'anti' brigade don't get a mention, but i thought it was quite sympathetic in this instance.
    You need a hair trim if you are going to be doing all these TV spots though, ;)
    Keep up the good work.

    Mike fae Dundee.

  15. Gong forward here's a section from the Scottish Planning Policy (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/02/03132605/8):

    "128. The most sensitive landscapes may have little or no capacity to accept new development. Areas of wild land character in some of Scotland's remoter upland, mountain and coastal areas are very sensitive to any form of development or intrusive human activity and planning authorities should safeguard the character of these areas in the development plan."

    Wind Farms:

    "The design and location of any wind farm development should reflect the scale and character of the landscape. The location of turbines should be considered carefully to ensure that the landscape and visual impact is minimised."

    Politicians should be reminded of these guidelines - which they created and agreed.