SALLACHY SHOULD BE GIVEN THE GO-AHEAD

PRESS RELEASE: 23rd March 2015

In response to the John Muir Trust’s (JMT) 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 by the Scottish Government.

The proposed Sallachy wind farm will consist of 22 wind turbines (66MW) and is to be located on the south-west shore of Loch Shin, northwest of Lairg, and is being determined by the Scottish Government.

Responding to the comments from the John Muir Trust (JMT), Iain Thomson, Manager of the Sallachy Estate said:  “For my neighbours and I this is our home and it is where we raise our families, and 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 JMT doesn’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.

“The proposed wind farm offers our rural business and the local community 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 which include forestry, farming, stalking, fish farming and tourism.  It will sustain the many contractor opportunities that we provide to local businesses, as well as secure the long term sustainability of my own job and those of the six local people who work on the Estate.”

Highland Council originally ‘raised no objection’ to Sallachy Wind Farm in May 2013.  The council reaffirmed its support in November 2014 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.)  And since the ECDU wrote to consultees in August 2014, a number of new supportive representations have been made by residents, local groups and businesses.  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, WKN, said: “In relation to wild land, we understand that 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.

“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 comments from the JMT 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, taking efforts and measures to contribute to the communities by establishing a community benefit agreement, setting up an apprenticeship scheme and a supply side incubator.”

Sandy Allison, Chair of Lairg Community Council, said: “Sallachy will improve the social and economic environment of our area, with a community benefit agreement in place for local communities worth up to £8.5 million. We also have the promise of an apprenticeship scheme, and work for local people which is vital due to lack of work in the area. The voice of our community should be heard.”

Councillor Maxine Smith, member of the North Planning Applications Committee, Vice Convener and Budget Leader of Highland Council, said: “I voted for Sallachy windfarm because it did not appear to me to have any detrimental effect on the community or anything else round about.  I think it is unfortunate that one minor issue can hold back a development, for me it should be about human beings – the people who inhabit the community adjacent to any development, whether a windfarm or otherwise.

“The community in Sallachy had no major issue with this and would have benefitted substantially both in terms of jobs and a pot of funding for the community on an annual basis.  I hope the Minister sees this and grants the application.”

Mike MacKenzie, MSP for Highlands and Islands, said: “It is ironic that this call comes from John Muir Trust at the same time as a newly published poll from YouGov shows that support for wind energy in Scotland has risen over the last year by 7% and now stands at 71%. There is of course a balance to be struck in sensitively siting wind turbines but I feel the Scottish Government has struck a reasonable balance between allowing this valuable renewable energy sector to flourish and protecting our landscapes.

“Orkney produces over 100% of its electricity from wind turbines and has an almost flat landscape with little possibility of mitigating visual intrusion. Yet, its tourism sector is flourishing and it is always in the top three of UK quality of life surveys. Wind energy therefore does not appear to be affecting tourism or detracting from the quality of life of local people.

“I am keen to see the Highlands and Islands benefit from more onshore wind projects as well as from offshore and marine renewables. All of these technologies offer huge socio economic benefits for communities that have struggled with disadvantage for generations and we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Jamie McGrigor, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said:  “I understand people’s concerns about making sure wind farm developments are in the appropriate locations. However, as an MSP for the Highlands and Islands I have not received any letters of complaint for the proposed Sallachy Wind Farm. The area has recently been classified as ‘wild land’ however there is fish farm, hydro scheme, commercial conifer plantation, and high roads all in close proximity to the proposed site.

“I understand that Highland Council and the host and neighbouring community council are supportive of the scheme and I welcome the community benefit agreement for Lairg, Creich and Ardgay and District worth up to £8.5 million over 25 years. Inward investment in remote areas of the Highlands can be rare and often vital for local peoples livelihoods. This should obviously be taken into consideration and I hope their views will taken into account. I do not know if the John Muir Trust has consulted with local people.”

Angela Wilson, Operations Manager, at 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 WKN’s willingness to work with local communities, companies and students to enhance the local economy and believe WKN’s approach to engagement has been innovative.

“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.”

ENDS

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