A special meeting of The Highland Council today approved three hydropower proposals in Wild Land Areas of Glen Etive.
A total of seven applications had been submitted to build hydro schemes on both sides of Glen Etive – which is currently designated as a National Scenic Area and identified as having outstanding Wild Land qualities.
Members of The Highland Council’s Planning Committee visited the glen for themselves before approving all seven applications at a meeting in February.
But there was widespread outcry at the decision and independent Councillor Andrew Baxter gained sufficient support for a motion to call a special meeting of The Highland Council to review the decisions in respect of the three most contentious applications – Allt Ceitlein, Allt Mheuran and Allt Chaorainn, which fall into one of Scotland’s 42 Wild Land Areas.
However today, those three schemes were also approved. Mountaineering Scotland has now called on the Scottish Government to review that decision.
Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “This is a disappointing decision by The Highland Council. It brings into question the purpose and value of allocating special designations which are intended to help protect our finest landscapes.
“We understand the arguments being made in support of the proposed developments but feel there was a wider point of principle at stake today. This was about the stewardship of a national asset and we hope this decision has not set a dangerous precedent which encourages more development applications in our wild land and national scenic areas.”
Mountaineering Scotland’s Access and Conservation Officer Davie Black said: “We are disappointed at this decision as there were serious issues raised about the impact of these developments on the landscape here, an area of great importance for outdoor recreation.
“What do we have to do to save our best landscapes from heavy engineering?
“We would call on the Scottish Government to review this decision and to look carefully at how we protect a place that is double locked by landscape protections, between being a Wild Land Area and a National Scenic Area.
“These are national assets, places of outstanding beauty. It should be in the national interest to look after these areas, and yet these heavy engineering projects are to be allowed to destroy the very qualities that make these steep slopes and deep glens so special.”
Wild land charity the John Muir Trust also expressed its disappointment at today’s decision. Policy Officer John Low said: “We first of all want to commend Councillor Andrew Baxter for ensuring that the full Highland Council had an opportunity to examine these applications. We note that around one third of councillors opposed the decision
“The John Trust took a measured approach when objecting to the proposals as we are very concerned at the continued diminishing of Scotland’s wild places at the hands of developers whose sole objective is private profit.
“While we are disappointed at the blanket approval of all three schemes within the Wild Land Area, we welcome the fact that the local community plans to monitor the developments to ensure they are properly restored after construction work.”