The Cairngorms National Park is in danger of becoming surrounded by a ring of steel, one of its planning committee members has warned.
The park authority’s committee agreed not to object to two proposed wind farms at locations scores of miles apart – in the Monadhliaths and in Moray – at its latest meeting.
But several members expressed their growing concerns over the number of wind farms either already in operation, being constructed or planned on close to the national park’s boundary.
However, they said they were hamstrung by the planning regulations in place when it came to make an objection.
The applications the CNPA was being consulted on were for 23 more turbines at two sites.
They comprise seven turbines at the proposed Garbet wind farm around 5.5 kilometres south-east of Dufftown and extending the existing 26 turbines at Corriegarth wind farm by 16 turbines at its site 10 km south-east of Foyers by Loch Ness.
The CNPA planning committee can only make an objection to an application outside of its boundaries if, in Scottish Planning Policy, it is deemed to have a significant impact on the landscape effects of the park, most often this is on views.
But planning committee member Derek Ross pointed out that ‘significant’ had different meanings to most people depending on their own viewpoint, while discussing the Garbet proposal.
He said: “I do really hope that golden eagles, ospreys, hen harriers and buzzards know where the boundaries of the national park are. Sometime we do have to draw a line in the sand and say ‘no more’.
“To my mind, okay this is one that is perhaps less significant to the national park, but what we are in danger of doing as we go forward is surrounding the park with a ring of steel and I would hate to see that.
“It is the cumulative effect that is important but in this case I agree this is not one to pursue.”
Fellow committee member Carolyn Caddick pointed out during the planning meeting that Loch Ness was already surrounded by wind turbines but this was an issue for Highland Council.
On the Garbet application, ex-planning convener Eleanor Mackintosh said: “They took no real heed of our objection to the big wind farm on the Cabrach, so I doubt they will take any heed of any objections on this one at all.
“We need to pick our battles when it comes to wind farms and I do not think that this is one of those that we should fight. It may well be someone else’s battle but I do not think it is our one.”
Planning committee member Peter Argyle said: “Unfortunately or otherwise it does not have a significant impact on the national park if that is the test as a park planning committee that we have to apply and the evidence on this is clear.”
Park planners point to issue in reports
CNPA planners had pointed out for both applications there are numerous existing and consented wind farms plus several proposed wind farms in the planning system in the vicinity of both proposed developments.
The Garbet bid by Energiekontor comprises seven turbines with a maximum height of 190m.
There will also be some 1.6kms of upgraded existing track, five kilometres of new track, and other infrastructure including a substation, underground cabling and borrow pits.
The nearest turbine would be around 11kms to the north east of the national park boundary.
The proposed extension at Corriegarth will encircle the existing wind farm in the Monadhliaths.
The existing turbines have a blade tip height of 120m whereas the new 16 turbines will be 149.9m.
Around 13 kilometres of track will be upgraded as well as the creation of 10kms of new track and other infrastructure including a substation in the Corriegarth 2 Wind farm Ltd scheme.