Government ministers have sensationally blocked plans for a windfarm identified as a threat to the success of the Ryder Cup and its legacy.
The gaze of the world will fall upon Perthshire when the mammoth event one of sport’s biggest comes to Scotland in 2014. It is to be used as a unique opportunity to sell the nation to an audience numbering hundreds of millions.
The owners of Gleneagles Hotel had, however, warned that the Ryder Cup legacy could be blighted by the presence of a new forest of turbines in the Ochil Hills.
Green energy developers were hoping to force through proposals for seven 102-metre towers despite significant national and local opposition.
Rejected by Perth and Kinross Council, they took their case to the Scottish Government, only to have that appeal thrown out.
Its reporter who oversaw an extensive inquiry decided that there was significant merit in concerns over the Frandy Hill plan’s impact upon the countryside.
Despite claims that there is scope for further development within the Ochils, he said the additional turbines could see windfarms become the dominating feature of the rugged and beautiful landscape.
Wind Prospect said they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision. Gleneagles had expressed considerable concern about the windfarm’s visual impact on users of their hotel and grounds, including the three golf courses.
Those concerns were heightened by the fact that the television cameras will beam pictures around the world as the USA and Europe face-off in 2014.
Bosses were keen that the spectacle of the event and the chance of future golf tourists not be spoilt by the increasing industrialisation of Scotland’s hills.
While the Ryder Cup will be used as a marketing tool for Scotland and for Perth and Kinross and Central Scotland in particular the Ochils already attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and the area is well used for recreation by hill walkers,cyclists, runners, horse riders and anglers.
The summit of Ben Cleuch the highest of the Ochils is visited by as many as 24,000 people each year, making it one of the country’s most popular climbs.
Scottish Natural Heritage had objected to the plan in the strongest possible terms, highlighting the Ochils “distinctive landscape character” and their “strong sense of remoteness and tranquillity”.
The reporter expressed the belief that the impact upon Gleneagles would be “relatively minor” and said claims of an impact upon tourism had not been supported by “substantive evidence”.
He nonetheless concluded that the developers’ environmental statement “overstates the capacity of the landscape to accept windfarm development while understating the value of the landscape and the impact of the proposed development on that landscape.”
“I consider that the proposed development would seriously reduce the quality of the recreational experience,” he said.
“It would result in windfarms becoming a key characteristic of the more elevated Ochils to the west of Glen Devon. That would not be a desirable outcome.”
Wind Prospect meanwhile told The Courier: “We are extremely disappointed that the appealhas been dismissed and permission refused by the Scottish Government.
“The growing renewable energy industry not only creates new employment opportunities and investment but can make a real difference to enhance sustainable communities.
“Developments like Frandy Hill could help to ensure that Scotland reaches its target for 100% of electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2020.
“We need more renewable energy fuelled by Scotland’s own resource to protect us from future uncertainty in fossil fuel prices.”