PRESS RELEASE 28 November 2014.

In response to the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s (MCoS) statement on Sallachy and Glencassley wind farms, the Sallachy Estate has outlined the positive impact that the Sallachy development will have on the local area if given the go ahead.

The proposed Sallachy wind farm is an example of a local estate in the Highlands using its land asset to benefit the local area through sustainable development.  The proposed Sallachy Wind Farm is located on the south-west shore of Loch Shin, northwest of Lairg for 22 turbines (66MW).

Responding to the comments from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Iain Thomson Manager of the Sallachy Estate said:

“Sallachy Estate is at the heart of the local community in Lairg and central Sutherland. We manage our estate responsibly and our activities include forestry, farming, stalking, fish farming and tourism. The proposed Sallachy Wind Farm offers the estate a unique opportunity to secure a stable income that will support us for the next 25 years and beyond. This will allow us to expand our current commercial activities and secure the long term sustainability of my own job and those of the six local people who work on the estate. It will also sustain the many contractor opportunities that we provide to local businesses. No other commercial opportunity provides this level of security.

“David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, claims to want to protect fragile rural communities but he does not live in the Lairg community and clearly does not understand what it means to live and to run sustainable land based businesses here. He may visit sporadically and seems to believe the northern Highlands is a playground for him to use as he sees fit to pursue his own hobbies. His comments are ill- judged and wholly mis-informed about what our community wants and needs.

“For my neighbours and I this is our home and it is where we raise our families. Our primary concern is not the identification and preservation of so called ‘wild land’ but rather we seek to sustainably use the land assets we have to provide a stable economy that can support our way of life. If the MCOS don’t like wind farms like Sallachy perhaps they can suggest another way to develop our local economy that will support our community for this generation and the next. I suspect they have no plan B and would be happy for our community to miss out just so they can make their point.”

In November 2014, Highland Council reaffirmed its support for Sallachy Wind Farm after it unanimously approved the recommendation that there should be no change in response from Highland Council to the Scottish Government in light of the new Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).

In relation to wild land, the new SPP does not designate wild land but instead allows it to be considered alongside all other material planning considerations. The new SPP retains the flexibility for the planning authority (in this case Highland Council and the Scottish Government) to judge each application on its own merits and to come to a final view based on the economic and social benefits of the project.

Highland Council originally ‘raised no objection’ to Sallachy in May 2013 and Highland Council’s planning officers found the application to be compliant with Highland Council policy and recommended to councillors to support the scheme.   Highland Council has reaffirmed its position in light of the new SPP and the project will go back to the ECDU for a decision.

Since the ECDU wrote to consultees in August 2014, a number of new supportive representations have been made by residents, local groups and businesses for Sallachy.  This includes the host community council Lairg Community Council and neighbouring community council Ardgay and District Community Council, who both wrote supportive letters to the ECDU.

Oliver Patent, Head of Development UK, said:

“We welcome the support of the local communities for Sallachy Wind Farm and believe it is vital that the view of the communities who live in Sutherland are heard.

“We are disappointed with the MCoS’s comments as the SPP explicitly supports sustainable development and we feel that our scheme has the potential to do exactly that by improving the social and economic environment of the community.  We were pleased to be able to commit to a community benefit agreement for Lairg, Creich and Ardgay & District worth up to £8.5 million over 25 years.

“Sallachy represents an inward investment of over £100m and we have a partnership with Energy North to ensure local and Highland based contractors supply the various works for construction of the wind farm.  We have also signed a partnership with the local college to ensure apprenticeships for local young people to benefit from the wind farm.”

Ian Couper, Chief Executive of Energy North, said:

“Energy North has followed the wild land debate with interest and agree that developments require to be sensitively sited as in the case of Sallachy wind farm.  We welcome the new Scottish Planning Policy supporting sustainable development – Sallachy offers a potentially huge economic boost to the Highlands.  We welcome WKN’s willingness to work with local communities, companies and students to enhance the local economy.

“We believe WKN’s approach to engagement has been innovative and one that has potential to be used as a model for future developers.  We have been in discussions with WKN since early 2012 regarding a possible tripartite partnership with us and the North Highland College’s Environmental Research Institute, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands to help boost education and skills in the Highlands during the construction phase of the wind farm, should it be consented.”

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