Holyrood officials claim a new Glenkens windfarm won’t be detrimental to the landscape – because there’s already another development nearby.
The Scottish Government has given Energiekontor the thumbs up for nine turbines at Fell Hill near Loch Urr.
In his decision, reporter Chris Norman acknowledged concerns over the impact the windmills – some as tall as 200m – would have on the landscape but felt these would be “offset to a substantial degree by both the existing impact of Blackcraig Wind Farm and the lower contours where the proposed turbines would be sited”.
The decision has been slammed by the Save Our Hills campaign group.
Spokesman Iain Milligan said: “The basis of the Scottish Government’s decision seems to be that, because another windfarm already dominates the landscape, an extension of it is largely irrelevant.”
The Fell Hill development is one of six Glenkens windfarm developments that have been the subject of an appeal to the Scottish Government since August last year – all because the council had failed to make a decision within the required timeframe.
The application – for seven 200m tall turbines and two at 180m – was lodged with the council in February last year.
In his report, Mr Norman noted that due to the pandemic “the council’s landscape architect was unable to fully review the proposal nor undertake site work in relation to the appeal but she concludes that relatively localised but significant and unacceptable effects would occur” from a number of viewpoints.
And Mr Norman acknowledged “that Loch Urr is regarded as a precious and locally important landscape feature, and even a ‘national treasure’, as described by persons opposing the proposed development”.
However, he felt that the plans for nine turbines “would not diminish, to an unacceptable degree, the appreciation of the vertical scale of Fell Hill, given the presence of the operational turbines and the lower contours on which they would be sited”.
He said he put “considerable weight” on the fact the Blackcraig Wind Farm was already in the area, describing it as “a notable man made intervention into the landscape”.
As a result, the Fell Hill turbines would not be “within an area of unchanged landscape that is otherwise without manmade intervention”.
And he believed the Energiekontor proposal, which the German firm claims represents a £61 million investment, would not have a significant impact on tourist and visitor attractions.
Mr Norman granted approval of the development but attached a string of conditions.
Mr Milligan from Save Our Hills described the fact a Scottish Government reporter had been allowed to approve the proposal without it being discussed by the council’s planning applications committee as “an unacceptable failure of the democratic
He added: “We need councils and governments to control energy policy responsibly, striking a fairer balance between reducing carbon emissions and preserving the landscape and wildlife.
“It is unacceptable for officials in Edinburgh repeatedly to dictate what communities in rural Scotland should and shouldn’t have to live with.”