Highlands & Islands

Billionaire challenges Scottish ministers' turbines decision

Wind turbine Image copyright Reuters

An estates owner has sought to overturn Scottish government approval for a 22-turbine wind farm within wild land in the first case of its kind.

Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen has raised a judicial review in a bid to have the decision set aside.

His Wildland Ltd, which owns the Ben Loyal, Kinloch and Hope and Melness estates, has challenged approval of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm.

It is to be developed on a site on the Altnaharra Estate.

Wildland Ltd was among objectors to the wind farm in the Highlands.

Scottish National Heritage (SNH), the government's statutory landscape adviser, warned of adverse impact on wild land areas and wider Sutherland landscape.

In the court action, it has been claimed that ministers have shown "clear and consistent decision-making and safeguarding of wild land" in rejecting other projects in different parts of Scotland.

It has also been claimed that Creag Riabhach Wind Farm was the first case in which consent was given for "commercial wind-scale turbines within wild land".

'Lone mountain'

James Findlay, counsel for Wildland Ltd, told the Court of Session in Edinburgh: "There is no justification here for why, in this case, significant impacts are outweighed by what, on the face of it, are normal benefits from a wind farm of this size.

"In this case, where one is promoting development in an area which is subject to significant policy protection, one requires clear and cogent reasons."

He told the judge, Lord Boyd of Duncansby: "The hear of my complaint is that there are no reasons for rejecting SNH's view."

The ministers maintain that they did give proper and adequate reasons for their decision in October last year in granting consent.

They said they did not fail to take into account any relevant material consideration and were entitled to reject the advice of SNH.

Visual impact

The ministers accepted that the visual impact at two viewpoints would be "major and significant" but said "those views would be experienced by a relatively small number of physically able climbers and walkers".

They said "the lone mountain landscape character area" of Ben Klibreck would remain and "key views would be unaffected".

They said they found the landscape and visual impact of the wind farm to be acceptable and considered that it will make a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and had the potential for substantial economic benefit.

Ruth Crawford QC, for the ministers, urged the judge to refuse the orders sought by the estate owner.

Ms Crawford said: "What we are dealing with here is the paradigm case of the exercise of planning judgement."

Lord Boyd continued the case until next week when he may be in a position to give a decision.

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