Published: 08/06/2012 11:00 - Updated: 08/06/2012 14:14

Historic Scotland under fire over wind farms

Written byby Will Clark

A LOCAL estate director has hit out at Historic Scotland, accusing it of standing back and allowing some of the country’s most historic sites to be destroyed by wind farms.

And Islay MacLeod, of Thrumster Estate, claims to have been told by an insider at the organisation that conservation and protection of heritage landscapes have now taken second place to the Scottish Government’s policy on renewable industry.

However, a spokesman for Historic Scotland stressed that each case is viewed on its merits, adding: “Identification of a significant impact upon the historic environment does not necessarily mean that Historic Scotland would object to the application.”

In March last year, Mrs MacLeod was a vocal objector against the Burn of Whilk Wind Farm at Yarrows.

It was given the go-ahead by the Highland Council when Historic Scotland withdrew all objections to the scheme after developer RWE npower renewables announced its intention to drop the number of turbines installed at the site from 13 to nine.

She has also expressed concerns about wind farms proposed at Camster and Dunbeath and said Historic Scotland has now put what it stands for below the Government’s renewable energy targets.

“They seem to have moved from being a body that I thought was in charge of conservation and heritage to an administrative role,” she said.

“Climate change seems to be a big part of the Scottish Government’s remit. It has proven there is nothing sacred and the big examples are at Camster and Yarrows in Caithness where the historical importance of these sites is going to be destroyed.

“Everything is coming second place to the renewable industry, whether it be peatlands or historic landscapes.

“Historic Scotland needs to stand up for the preservation of these sites more than it is doing at the moment because the renewables industry is being allowed to place these wind turbines anywhere.”

Her views come after Historic Scotland chief executive Ruth Parsons announced she was to step down from her role after a controversial 30-month period in charge.

In 2010, she oversaw a change of structure which saw the departure of six senior staff. She said the changes would bring Historic Scotland into closer alignment with the Scottish Government, encouraging a more collaborative style of leadership, creating clearer responsibility for delivery and fostering greater transparency.

Mrs MacLeod said that during the past few years with Ms Parsons at the helm, Historic Scotland had become more concerned about the amount of visitors and profitability of attractions rather than the importance of each historical site.

A spokesman for Historic Scotland said that it considers wind-farm development applications on a case-by-case basis and its comments are considered along with those from other key agencies within the planning and environmental assessment process.

He said that often the decision will require a balance of interests, including natural heritage, tourism, aviation, proximity to settlements and local planning policy guidance.

“Our role is generally restricted to commenting on the impact of wind-farm developments on A-listed buildings, scheduled monuments, inventory gardens and designed landscapes, and inventory battlefields,” he said.

“When we provide a view on a development, we are often looking at how it might affect the understanding of a specific site.

“We would also consider how the development might affect the appreciation of the site in its wider context, for example, if it would result in a major change in a key view within a designed landscape.

“We often work closely with developers before their application is lodged to ensure they are aware of issues relating to the historic environment, and ways in which impacts can be reduced.”

He added: “Identification of a significant impact upon the historic environment does not necessarily mean that Historic Scotland would object to the application.

“Our primary role is to ensure that the decision-maker is aware of all the relevant issues.”

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