Clachnaben & Forest of Birse SLA


Clachnaben is more than just a physical feature in the hamlet of Strachan.  It's the Clan War Cry, and part of our family's culture and heritage. More importantly, it's one of the few undisturbed landscapes left, and a national treasure.

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Coriolis Energy and Irish utility firm ESB are looking to develop a wind farm project and plan to place 26 wind turbines on the Fasque and Glendye estate, north of the village of Fettercairn and on the approach to the Cairn O'Mount and Clachnaben.

Looking south-west from Clachnaben towards
Glen Dye and the area of the proposed wind farm

The development partners are offering shared ownership; Community Benefit money; and claim accommodation providers, suppliers and contractors will benefit economically.  However, there is no reason to believe these benefits will be in perpetuity.

Contrary to this, local suppliers and contractors would benefit minimally. Wind farms require minimal labour and virtually all major components and materials of a wind turbine are manufactured outside Scotland.

Regarding the latter, the Aberdeen Local Development Plan (LDP), Clan Strachan Society, Clan Strachan Charitable Trust, the Save Clachnaben Opposition Group, and numerous mountaineering, hiking, and other organizations confirm the opposite. That is, tourism and local walking routes will no doubt be negatively impacted by an expansion of wind farms in the Lower Deeside, and in particular the Cairn O’Mount and Clachnaben areas.  The Glendye Wind Farm is also opposed by traditional environmental groups, such as the Aberdeen Branch of the Green Party (Ref. Aberdeen Wind Watch).

Although the Glendye Wind Farm developers offer ownership opportunities and Community Benefit funds, many believe this is negligible when compared to the negative economic impact to the hospitality sector of the local economy due to an inevitable decline in tourism.

Contrary to the environmental benefits proposed by the energy development group, the construction of wind turbines, their service roads, and grid connections will result in the irreparable destruction of peat lands that contribute significantly to the reduction of green house gases.

According to Local Green activist and country councillor Sam Wylde, “While wind farms can make an important contribution to reducing greenhouse gasses, so do peat lands. When we build a wind farm on peat land it is self-defeating in terms of the environment." Sam continues, “Aberdeenshire council has also designated this area as a Special Landscape Area which should be respected for its undeveloped and remote character. This application is an example of the blatant disregard some developers have towards the local development plans in this case, a wind farm in an area identified as having no further wind farm capacity.”

Aberdeenshire Greens co-convenor, Guy Ingerson said: “Sam and the rest of team in Banchory are determined to highlight the need for sustainable and ecologically sound developments. This project doesn’t meet that definition. She has the full backing of our branch and we’ll be urging Scottish Green members across Scotland to back her motions at Conference.”

Moreover, the developers fail to mention the blades of a turbine cover an area of 18,600 square meters—that's roughly 2-1/2 football pitches, and spin at a brisk 80 meters per second (180 MPH) at the tips. The combination of 26 wind turbines will have a devastating impact on wildlife, especially rare and endangered birds such as nearby nesting Golden Eagles and Red Kites that use the hill’s up-draughts as a soaring aid.

The development group claims the wind turbines will have a minimal affect on the visual landscape. However, the wind turbines stand at a height of 150m (~500 feet), or the equivalent of a 28-story office building. Multiply this by 26 wind turbines, and one quickly gets the impression Coriolis and ESB will be building the equivalent of downtown Glasgow on the Cairn O’Mount. Statements made by the developers that Glendye Wind Farm will be good for the environment and will have little to no impact on the visual landscape are in our opinion, extremely biased and naive.

The landscape of the Cairn O’Mount and Lower Deeside is uniquely beautiful, spectacular, and unspoiled; which make it attractive to outdoors types, families, tourists, and of course those fortunate to call this area home. What is the value of this pristine landscape to locals and the ten's of thousands of tourist that visit this area every year? The simply answer is that the area’s landscape is priceless.

According to Jim Strachan, Co-Founder of the Clan Strachan Society and Scottish charity, Clan Strachan Charitable Trust, “The name-and-land create a nexus that go beyond sordid imagery, but instead create an inspiration and incentive of an ancestral attachment in which every hill, glen, and stone gives abiding pleasure to generation after generation of Strachans. Today, we may not own the land, but the Strachan family, as a local and international demographic, have a pride and love for the unspoiled beauty of these lands that date back nearly a millennium. Clachnaben and the Cairn O'Mount area are part of our family's culture and heritage."

Mr. Strachan continues, "In addition to the destruction of ancient peat lands and endangered wildlife, the Glendye Wind Farm development contravenes the Aberdeenshire Council  Local Development Plan, and its designation of the area as a  Special Landscape Area    (Download the SLA - ref. page 70)."  Contrary to what the developer implies, the Special Landscape Area (Ref. map on page 73) incorporates the entire area proposed by the Glendye Wind Farm. The LDP states regarding the Clachnaben and Forest of Birse Special Landscape Area:

   (1) Page 72, that emphasis should be on retaining the largely undeveloped and remote character of the Clachnaben and Forest of Birse SLA. "This means ensuring that any developments are located and designed to  limit their wider visibility and protect open skylines and rugged summits." 

   (2) Page 72, "Avoidance of development which impacts upon the appreciations of Clachnaben and Mount Battock and their settings." 

   (3) On page 73, "The ecological value of the river (Dee), its tributaries and its surroundings contributes to the landscape character, as well as being recognised as nationally and internationally important for nature conservation."

Mr. Strachan says, "The developers fail to respect the Aberdeenshire Council LDP and SLA, as well as local leadership. Given development is proposed in a national and internationally important conservation area, the devastating effect on the environment, and utter disregard for local planning, one quickly gets the feeling this is not so much about renewable energy and being environmentally consciousness, but seems to me more about corporate greed.  The Society represents over 1,000 members worldwide, and we consider wind turbines a blight on the Cairn O'Mount landscape, and the developer's actions an attack on this very important conservation area. There are already 25 wind turbines in the area, with still more being further proposed. If the Glendye Wind Farm is not stopped, the simple economics suggest a future expansion of wind turbines an order of magnitude greater than what’s currently installed and under application. If we do not bring a halt to the Glendye Wind Farm, the future of the Cairn O'Mount could be that of San Gorgonio Pass in California."


San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm

Jim concludes, "Assuming my doomsday prediction is wrong, and this worse case scenario is not realised, this does not diminish the fact that the landscape of the Cairn O'Mount and the surrounding area will forever and irreparably be harmed for future generations if Glendye Wind Farm development is approved." 

Precedence suggest these very reasons might be sufficient to bring a halt to the Glendye Wind Farm. The Press & Journal, 1 May 2018, reports, “Two Wind Farms in the Highlands Refused By Scottish Ministers.” Wind Farms at Caplich in Sutherland and another in Fort Augustus (totaling 30 turbines) were refused due to significant harm to peat land areas, as well as compromising the natural environment, amenity and heritage resources of the area. The site for the proposed wind farm development was in a Wild Land designated area. As of this printing, the article states that, "Since the Wild Land Areas map was approved in 2014, 10 wind farms with a total of nearly 200 turbines have been refused because of their impact on these landscapes and ecosystems."   The attempted expansion of wind farms shown here lends credence to Mr. Strachan's prediction regarding the likely expansion of wind farms in the Clachnaben and Forest of Birse Special Landscape Area.

George Strachan, a Wind Farm advocate in the United States for the government of New Jersey, "In addition to the specific procedural and planning discrepancies that the Glendye project comes up against with respect to existing local and even military planning documents, I offer the following. While I am personally a supporter of renewable energy, this particular site is not appropriate. The nature and pristine beauty of the site lends itself to tourism and not any sort of development, even if it is of an environmentally conscious nature. Aberdeen has wisely been a hub for offshore wind, in addition to its oil and gas industry. The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre project in Aberdeen Bay has shown the promise and feasibility for much more powerful production than onshore could produce. That clearly is the better course of action to follow than the Glendye Wind Farm."

The Society will be sending a protest letter, but if you are so incline, we strongly encourage you and all members of your family to download a letter, print a copy for each person in your family, ask them to sign, scan, and return via email to NWF@clanstrachan.org. Alternatively, you can also copy and past the opposition letter in an email.  Please send on or before October 31st as we only have a small window with the deadline to submit opposition letters on November 11, 2018.  If there's any help we can provide, please contact us.

Outside Weblinks:

- Save Clachnaben Facebook Page

- WindAction.org

- Scotland Against Spin

- EnergyVoice and 2nd Article and 3rd Article

- Save Clachnaben Sample  Letter of Objection