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Charity aims blow at wind turbines

In a major escalation of the battle against wind farms, the John Muir Trust is to launch its biggest ever campaign. The trust says "industrial scale" wind farms are a "major threat" to unspoiled areas of the Scottish countryside.

THEY are marching across the Scottish countryside in ever greater numbers but might have met their match in a conservation charity with the backing of Prince Charles.

In a major escalation of the battle against wind farms, the John Muir Trust is to launch its biggest ever campaign.

The trust says "industrial scale" wind farms are a "major threat" to unspoiled areas of the Scottish countryside.

It says it has been compelled to act by proposed changes in planning regulations that will make it easier for developers to push through plans.

The campaign will bring it into direct conflict with the Scottish Executive, which needs large wind farms if it is to meet its renewable energy targets.

The trust also makes clear its opposition to the building of "giant pylons" across the country, which will be a major boost to local groups against a 140-mile, upgraded power line proposed between Beauly, near Inverness, and Denny, near Stirling.

The trust is named after John Muir, the Dunbar-born conservationist who was instrumental in creating the US national parks and who has become an environmental icon worldwide.

It owns 50,000 acres of land in Scotland that it helps to preserve as wilderness, most... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

THEY are marching across the Scottish countryside in ever greater numbers but might have met their match in a conservation charity with the backing of Prince Charles.

In a major escalation of the battle against wind farms, the John Muir Trust is to launch its biggest ever campaign.

The trust says "industrial scale" wind farms are a "major threat" to unspoiled areas of the Scottish countryside.

It says it has been compelled to act by proposed changes in planning regulations that will make it easier for developers to push through plans.

The campaign will bring it into direct conflict with the Scottish Executive, which needs large wind farms if it is to meet its renewable energy targets.

The trust also makes clear its opposition to the building of "giant pylons" across the country, which will be a major boost to local groups against a 140-mile, upgraded power line proposed between Beauly, near Inverness, and Denny, near Stirling.

The trust is named after John Muir, the Dunbar-born conservationist who was instrumental in creating the US national parks and who has become an environmental icon worldwide.

It owns 50,000 acres of land in Scotland that it helps to preserve as wilderness, most notably Ben Nevis.

Its patron, Prince Charles, is known to share Muir's view that everyone should "do something" to keep wild land free of development and has made it clear he regards wind farms as "horrendous blots on the landscape".

A spokesman for Clarence House, the prince's London home, said: "The prince is a great champion of the countryside and clearly shares the desire for it to be preserved."

The trust will this week distribute thousands of leaflets showing the impact that wind farms can have on remote areas of Scotland and asking for public support for its campaign.

It says developments such as industrial scale wind farms are "a major threat to our rapidly diminishing wild land.

"Large wind turbines, often 120 metres high (taller than the Forth Bridge) grouped in clusters of up to 100 are totally unsuitable for Scotland's finest landscapes. The intrusion is not just the turbines and pylons but includes the access roads, concrete bases and underground cables. It would be a tragedy to sacrifice wild land to major industrial developments."

The trust says it is not against wind farms as long as they are small-scale, sensitively sited and of direct benefit to the communities surrounding them.

Producing energy near to where it was consumed would reduce "the need for giant pylons through wild and scenic areas". This is a reference to the proposed Beauly-Denny power line planned by energy giant Scottish and Southern.

The company says the line is vital to transport electricity from remote areas to its customers. But the proposed route has brought a public outcry from communities along its path as well as formal objections from several councils.

The trust has already lodged objections to two major wind farms on Lewis, where more than 250 turbines will be built across a peatland of international importance. It has also objected to a 43-turbine project at Lochluichart near Ullapool, saying it will ruin a scenic gateway to the north-west Highlands.

But it says changes to planning law and guidelines (SPP6) being considered by the Executive will make planning permission easier for wind farms, by reducing the role of local authorities and local communities in the planning process.

Helen McDade, the trust's policy officer, said: "Our view is that the changes will make it easier for developers to get the plans for big wind farms through.

"The Executive seems to think it will solve its problems by getting four or five really big ones through but they are not taking into account the impact they will have on local communities or the immediate area.

"Wild land is part of the sense of what Scotland is about for both people who live here and visitors. Once it has gone you can never get it back and if John Muir was here today he would be out there fighting this with us."

Scotland has 40 wind farms with a total of 643 turbines. But a further 179, with more than 4,500 turbines, are at various stages in the planning process.

Although many will not be given approval, environmental groups claim an area the size of North Lanarkshire will have to be covered in turbines if the Executive is to meet its target of providing 40% of Scotland's electricity from renewable energy technology by 2020.

The trust's campaign follows a report last week by Scottish National Heritage, the government's countryside advisory body, which concludes wind farm developers have so far avoided sites causing a significant impact on fragile landscapes. But it warns this will be more difficult as the Executive drives towards its 2020 target.

It adds that the number of applications in landscape areas termed as "medium sensitivity" had increased from 33% two years ago to 42%.

An Executive spokeswoman denied that either the new guidelines on renewable energy policy or the Planning Bill would make it easier to gain permission for wind farms.

"The principles behind SPP6 are not about making things easier for developers of wind farms," she said. "Planning authorities are best placed to identify appropriate sites for wind farms, involving consultation with local communities and other stakeholders, and planning policy and the Planning Bill reflect this."

Maf Smith, the chief executive at Scottish Renewables, the umbrella body for the industry, said: "We are saddened by this campaign given the threat climate change poses to the same landscapes the trust seeks to protect. We would have preferred to work with the John Muir Trust to ensure that well-designed wind farms are built in the right places."


Source: http://scotlandonsunday.sco...

AUG 6 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3835-charity-aims-blow-at-wind-turbines
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