Scottish Ministers win appeal over wind farm consent decision

SSE StronelairgScottish Ministers have successfully challenged a judge’s decision to reduce a planning consent granted for the development of a new wind farm near Fort Augustus.

Last year conservation charity John Muir Trust successfully blocked the Scottish Government’s decision to approve the development at a judicial review hearing, claiming the required planning procedures regarding environmental impacts and objections to the project had not been properly followed.

The charity also claimed the project would be a blight on a “precious area of wild Scotland” which is home to a large area of peatland.

However, SSE and the Scottish Government appealed the judicial review decision, and won their case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In the published judgment, Lord Carloway, the lead judge in the case, said “careful consideration was given to the visual impact of the development and its effect on the wild land upon which it was to be built” in the original planning decision letter.

John Muir Trust expressed its disappointment with the Court’s decision, adding that it was now taking further legal advice and “considering options as to our next steps”.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision,” said Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust. “We are confident that we did the right thing by challenging this decision - standing up against a scheme that could industrialise and decimate a precious area of wild Scotland.”

However, SSE said the Strongelairg was situated in a “natural upland bowl” and the wind farm would not be visible on key tourist routes and at nearby Loch Ness. It also claims the site is “not located on pristine peatland” but rather peatland which is “heavily degraded”.

Welcoming Friday’s ruling, SSE said in a statement: “Stronelairg is a carefully designed project with the carbon payback estimated to be around 16 months. It was strongly supported by many local stakeholders, was not opposed by the local community council and was supported by the Highland Council planning committee. The ruling today has brought good news to a project that would bring significant benefits to the local and wider economy.”

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