The John Muir Trust update on Stronelairg

Posted Category: News

On Friday 22 July, the Inner House of the Court of Session upheld an appeal by Scottish Ministers and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) against the judicial review ruling late last year that  halted the Stronelairg wind farm in the Monadhliath Mountains near Inverness. JMTStatementStronelairgLegalAction

The government argued successfully and are now saying that Further Environmental Information only requires advertised once, regardless of what subsequent information is sent through i.e. if SEPA submit FEI in 2012 and SNH submit FEI in 2013 then only the 2012 FEI is advertised.  Their view is that later FEI should be searched for by interested parties on the relevant planning authority website.  Clearly this shifts the responsibility for making information available to the public considerably to the planning authority. This contravenes the Maastricht Recommendations:

http://www.unece.org/env/pp/publications/maastricht_recommendations.html Article 6 paragraphs 2 and 6.

Trust welcomes cross party support over Stronelairg legal expenses: Greens, Conservatives and individual SNP MSPs have called on Scottish Govt and SSE to waive their right to pursue the Trust for expenses. Read more…

December 2015 The John Muir Trust today expressed its delight after winning a crucial judicial review against the Scottish Ministers and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) regarding Ministers’ consent for an industrial-scale wind farm at Stronelairg in the Monadhliath mountains.

The 67-turbine development, which would have extended over an area the size of Inverness, was given the go-ahead by Energy Minister in June 2014. Seventy per cent of the Stronelairg site consists of wet peatland, Scotland’s miniature version of the rainforest, would have faced severe disruption as a result of the excavationof 22 million cubic feet of stone from the area.

Lord Jones ruled in his decision that members of the public had been denied the opportunity to comment on a revised planning application for the proposed wind farm, and that Scottish Ministers did not take into account Scottish Natural Heritage’s objection in principle to any wind farm development at Stronelairg.

Due to these errors, Lord Jones reduced the Ministers’ decision to grant consent for the wind farm.

Stuart Brooks, John Muir Trust Chief Executive said: “This is great news for all those who love Scotland’s wild land and wish to see it protected. A financial appeal brought a tremendous level of support from over a thousand well-wishers, allowing the Trust to proceed. Lord Jones has now decided the Trust’s court action was well-founded.”

“Due to the impact this approval had on a wild land area – which led to Scottish National Heritage removing a significant area from its Wild Land Areas map – the Trust very reluctantly took this judicial review against the government.

Crucially, in rejecting an argument by the Scottish Ministers that the Trust was not prejudiced by the Minister’s decision, Lord Jones concluded that the Trust was taking the action for the public good. He said: “The interest of any non-governmental organisation, such as the trust, is deemed sufficient. The question, therefore, is not whether the trust was prejudiced, but whether members of the public were prejudiced.”

Stuart Brooks commented: “Lord Jones rightly identified that this case was taken and won in the public interest so the right thing for Scottish Ministers to do is not to appeal this decision.”

“The Trust will now be asking Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Government to reinstate the Stronelairg area in the Wild Land Areas map, giving an important piece of our natural heritage – including vast swathes of peatland which help to mitigate climate change – some measure of protection.

“SSE should recognise that this was the wrong development, of the wrong size and in the wrong place. The company now has an opportunity to show that they are listening to communities and tourism bodies and to engage with others to revitalise the natural environment there rather than pursue this damaging development which would cover a footprint the size of Inverness.

“Lessons need to be learned from the lack of proper procedure and incorrect decision-making by the government.”

JR Lord Jones Opinion 4.12.15