A landscape architect yesterday said he was “absolutely satisfied” that a 59-turbine windfarm would have “very limited visibility” from the Cairngorms National Park if built on the remote Glenfiddich Estate, near Dufftown.
Edinburgh-based James Welch gave evidence on the first day of a public inquiry at Dufftown’s Memorial Hall.
Dutch-run Infinergy hopes to erect the 410ft structures at Hill of Dorenell, on 5,000 acres of the remote Cabrach area bordering Cairngorms National Park (CNP) to power nearly 100,000 homes.
Mr Welch accused CNP, the scheme’s major objectors, of “overstating” its impact on the character of Moray and Aberdeenshire.
CNP representative James Findlay QC, said the sight of “only one hub” with a blade “cutting the skyline beneath it” would spoil the “sense of secrecy, surprise and self-containment” found in the sprawling national park.
If the Scottish Government approves the scheme, 15 miles of 16ft-wide tracks would be created and three miles of 16ft-wide tracks would be upgraded.
Around 24 miles of 11ft-wide electricity cable trenches would be dug and it would take up to three years for re-growth to cover the scars. A temporary construction compound, an electricity substation and a one-storey maintenance building within the substation compound, would adjoin the development.
Infinergy insists it can help attract more people to the region by creating woodland walks and visitor centres and setting up a community investment fund.
The developer said its controversial plans would be a huge environmental boost for the area, and the windfarm would be sited in a remote area away from homes.
The company will pay for wardens, marked paths, leaflets and a car park to encourage people to explore the area. Infinergy would provide a community benefit fund of more than £350,000 a year.
Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are backing the project.
Speyside Glenlivet SNP councillor Michael McConachie is supporting the scheme. He said the proposal would bring with it a capital investment of £185million – £65million of which would go to Scottish companies.
Moray Council objected to the scheme on October 13 last year because the project went against the local plan. Objectors claim tourists would be driven away by turbines on the natural landscape.
Architect Mr Welch, from Optimised Environments Ltd, insisted yesterday that a “large portion” of the scheme would be obscured from visibility within the park.
He added: “I do not accept that there would be a significant effect on any of the seven areas of the park, other than from the Ladder Hills. I consider that the Cairngorms National Park has overstated the likely effects of the development on the park.”
In his written evidence to the inquiry, CNP representative landscape architect David Tyldesley said the proposal would have “significant adverse effects on the special qualities, including the landscape and enjoyment of the park” and should be refused.
The inquiry is expected to run until next Wednesday. Landscape and visibility issues will dominate the hearing today. Tomorrow, the perceived impact on tourism and economic benefits will be discussed. Next week, the inquiry will cover planning policy issues.