A Scottish estate owner is seeking to overturn Scottish Government approval for a 22-turbine Highland wind farm within wild land in the first case of its kind.
Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen, who has extensive interests in Scotland, has raised a judicial review in a bid to have the decision set aside.
Wildland Ltd, which owns the Ben Loyal, Kinloch, and Hope and Melness estates maintains that ministers failed to give proper, adequate and intelligible reasons for their ruling giving the go ahead for the development of the Creag Riabhach wind farm on the Altnaharra estate.
It was among objectors to the proposal which included Scottish National Heritage, the ministers’ statutory landscape adviser, who warned of adverse impact on wild land areas, the Sutherland landscape and visual amenity.
In the action it is maintained that ministers have shown “clear and consistent decision-making and safeguarding of wild land” in rejecting other projects in different parts of Scotland.
“This is the first case in which the respondents (ministers) have granted consent for commercial wind scale turbines within wild land,” it is said,
It is said the estate owner has local land management and business interests but also a wider interest in environmental protection, particularly wild land areas.
“They should be able to understand why consent was granted in this case and not in others. They are prejudiced by the uncertainty caused by the respondents’ unexplained and inconsistent decision to grant this particular application,” it is said.
James Findlay, counsel for Wildland, 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 said.
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 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.
They accepted that the visual impact at two viewpoints would be “major and significant” but maintained: “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 claimed: “Key views would be unaffected.”
Ruth Crawford QC, for the ministers, urged the judge to refuse the orders sought by the estate owner.
Lord Boyd continued the case until next week when he may be in a position to give a decision.