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Lochaber smelter owners, GFG Alliance, has defended its plans for a 39-turbine wind farm at Glenshero – a development that critics said could cause ecological devastation.
The proposed Glenshero development, from GFG subsidiary Simec, would be located next to the recently built 66-turbine Stronelairg wind farm in the Monadhliath mountains.
A public local inquiry, which was held last month after opposition to the proposals, heard statements from Highland Council, NatureScot, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Mountaineering Scotland, Wild Land and the John Muir Trust.
If the development gets the greenlight, campaigners say it will see the excavation of seven quarries and the extraction of 195,000 cubic metres of aggregates – more than was used in the construction of the Queensferry Crossing.
Rosie Simpson, senior policy officer for the John Muir Trust, said: ‘We are strongly supportive of the Scottish Government’s ambitions to become a global leader in the drive towards a net zero carbon economy, and we recognise that our renewables potential has a vital role to play in meeting these targets.
‘We are, however, seriously concerned about the sheer scale of ecological destruction, peat excavation and industrialisation of this landscape, which in the recent past was identified by NatureScot as a Wild Land Area.
‘We are also concerned about weaknesses in the planning system that allow for this application to be brought forward six years after Stronelairg was approved without serious public scrutiny after the developer (SSE) agreed to reduce the number of turbines from 83 to 66.
‘Subsequent applications mean this part of the Monadhliath Mountains could be covered with 155 contiguous turbines, turning this once tranquil plateau into a vast industrialised complex larger than the city of Dundee.’
But Jay Hambro, GFG Alliance’s Chief Investment Officer, said the Glenshero Wind Farm project is at the heart of GFG’s sustainable industry strategy in Scotland.
‘Renewable energy from the 168MW Glenshero project will make GFG’s industrial operations in Lochaber, Badenoch, Clydebridge and Dalzell more resilient, enabling these businesses to invest in their futures with confidence, creating new local jobs and securing existing roles,’ Mr Hambro commented.
‘The project will mobilise £150million of additional investment once planning permission has been secured, meaning GFG will have invested nearly three quarters of a billion pounds in Scottish industry in less than a decade of entering Scotland.
‘Glenshero is a well-sited and carefully designed scheme, situated outside any designated area such as Wild Lands or National Parks. It went through significant design refinements during the development phase. Turbines situated on the highest elevations were dropped altogether to limit the visibility of the wind farm from surrounding areas.
‘The wind farm will provide resources for a carefully developed habitat management plan, which deliver meaningful biodiversity enhancements. Lease rental provided by the wind farm will be fully reinvested in sustainable regeneration projects on Jahama Highland Estates land holdings across Badenoch and Lochaber.
‘Capital will be released for a wide range of projects providing transformational long-term benefits for the environment, local communities and the economy.
‘More than £23m will go into contracts with Highlands-based suppliers ranging from concrete suppliers to excavation and civil engineering contractors.’
The inquiry reporter is now preparing his report for Scottish ministers who will make the final decision on this proposed development.
The Glenshero Estate. Photograph: Glenshero Wind Farm.
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GFG Alliance’s Jay Hambro.
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