Sunday 8 February 2015

Macritch Hill Wind Farm

The siege of Balintore Castle by wind farms abateth not. The latest assault is the "Macritch Hill Wind Farm". The proposal has been submitted to the Scottish Government for approval. The reason the decision is being made by the Scottish Government rather than Angus Council, is the sheer scale of the development: eighteen 125 metre tall wind turbines arranged around the Backwater Reservoir. The closest turbine to Balintore Castle will just be just one mile away. 

Eneco, the company concerned, deliberately revised their proposal to move one turbine further down a hill so it would not be in the eye-line of Balintore Castle in light of the comments of a Government Reporter who visited the area to make a judgement on an earlier, but still ongoing, proposal of the Carrach Wind Farm.

Should I be grateful? Balintore Castle has been threatened so many times by wind farms that would be in full "VistaVision" view, that I did not know if I had the energy to fight against Macritch - knowledge of the proposal had put me into a state of shock. I duly visited the Eneco exhibition in the Kingoldrum Village Hall with my neighbour. The staff there were really friendly and showed us computer visualisations of the wind farm from different angles. The real shocker was the complete transformation of the Backwater Reservoir itself, from a beauty spot to the exact opposite.

As we exited the village hall, my neighbour asked me what I thought. As I spoke and said "I am against it.", I found my resolve. As I explained, the windfarm destroys countryside right in the vicinity of Balintore Castle. The two places I take visitors to the castle are to the "Backwater Reservoir" which would be destroyed and to the summit of Cat Law the mountain on whose slopes the castle rests. The view from the top of Cat Law would also be destroyed. In short the visual amenity of the area is gone in one fell swoop. This time round, the issue was larger than just Balintore Castle, which it had always had been in the past for me personally. The development is just wrong for the area, and the lesson I have learned from fighting on behalf of Balintore Castle is that when something is wrong, you should say so clearly and loudly to the stakeholders. For in truth, it is only members of the public that truly protect heritage, whether natural or built, by driving the mechanisms within society.

If you would like to drive your own mechanisms within society, you can object to the Macritch Hill Wind Farm by writing to the Scottish Government before the 20th February on

or why not join the Facebook group I have set up

I append my own letter to the Scottish Government, and hope you are able to understand why I feel so strongly, if you feel in any way similarly please object yourself.

Dear Energy Consents and Development Unit,

I took on the restoration of Balintore Castle in 2007. This is a A-grade listed building dating from 1860, set carefully and deliberately into an unspoiled landscape. Since 2008, the castle has been subject to an onslaught of wind farm proposals which would despoil the setting of the building and its surrounding area, and the sad truth of the matter is that much of time I would loved to have worked on the restoration of the building, has been spent trying to fend off the developer. I wish to object to the proposal for the Macritch Hill Wind Farm (Angus Council planning application 15/00047/S36)  because it spoils the two natural resources in the immediate vicinity of Balintore Castle which are so amazing: these are the places I take my visitors. The first is the Backwater Reservoir where the development is located and secondly the summit of Cat Law where the vista would be spoiled by the intrusion of the wind turbines.

The following image shows the massing of wind farms around Balintore Castle. I have circled Balintore in red. This is within the 5km radius of Macritch. The opportunistic massing of wind farms south of the national park is quite apparent. It is a shame Balintore Castle is not 3 miles to the north, for then it would be protected within the national park. Even so, you can see Macritch is encroaching more than any other scheme towards the national park: one of the turbines is just 1.5 km from the boundary. There is no mistaking the large footprint of Macritch. In fact, another footprint to the north the size of Macritch would enter the Balmoral Estate!

wind farms in vicinity of Balintore Castle and Macritch Hil
Yet, the map above still does not represent the totality of the threat. The Lindertis scheme, near to Macritch and in the direction of Kirriemuir, is not shown.

Indeed, here is a view of Macritch from the north, from well within the national park.

view of Macritch from well inside Cairngorms National Park

In fact, if one looks at the 31 viewpoints considered in the environment statement, you will see that only one (#12) is within the Backwater Reservoir area - the place of natural beauty that will be spoiled. Only three viewpoints (this, and #9 and #22 to the north) are within the "bowl" of the wind farm development at all.  Viewpoints #12 and #22 are located suspiciously near a bank of trees, and  #22 is not taken beyond a wireframe representation. I went to the Eneco exhibition in the Kingoldrum Village Hall, and the visualisations on the computer screen of the planned turbines around Backwater Reservoir that I was shown are not represented in this ER. They were truly shocking. In short there is misrepresentation by omission. To describe the viewpoints that were chosen here, the phrase "over the hills and far away" comes to mind.

31 "selective" viewpoints used in Macritch Environment Survey

The only visualisation which gives some idea of what I saw at the exhibition is viewpoint #9, to the north of Backwater, as below. However, my real concern is the views from around the banks of Backwater, and there are no good representations of the impact in the ER. Backwater is used by many, including my friends, my neighbours and tourists as a scenic amenity: fishing, picnics, cycling and water-sports.

The acoustics in the Glen around Backwater are exceptional. The only sounds to puncture the usual silence are those from predominantly natural sources: birds, animals, water and wind. Macritch would introduce continual man-made noise pollution, contrasting with the current, decidedly occasional, such sounds from the odd farm vehicle or car.

visualisation of Macritch wind farm

The ER is trying to say the visual impact is minimal because of the majority of far-away viewpoints used. In fact close to the wind farm, around Backwater Reservoir, and from Cat Law on whose lower slopes Balintore Castle was build, the consequences are devastating. Balintore Castle was saved by public money (an 8 year compulsory purchase by Angus Council). It would, in consequence, be a Scottish heritage "own goal" to jeopardise its future by allowing this development to proceed.

Eneco, themselves recognise the heritage importance of Balintore Castle. I quote from the report:

4.5.16 The submitted layout is an evolution of Option E (with the working title of Option F)
and varies from Option E in the following respects only:
Turbine 1 has been adjusted a short distance downslope to remove the last
trace of visibility from Balintore Castle (previously a single tip was visible)

I truly wish, I could feel grateful. You are welcome to visit Balintore Castle to see the time, effort, care and money that are being expended on the restoration; to inspect the use of traditional materials, traditional techniques and quality local craftsmen; and to see the astonishing setting of the building for yourselves.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. David Johnston
Balintore Castle


  1. Any news yet David? I'm occasionally receiving mail from the Angus Council from the last time but nothing yet on this more recent development.
    How's our castle doing?

    1. The Macritch application will go before the Council at 10AM on May 15. Come along and lend your support - the more objectors present the better. Although the Council are not making the final decision, if they recommend against the development, then the matter will be forced to go to a public inquiry which is what we want. There is an earlier public meeting to be held at 7PM on Thursday 23rd April at Kirriemuir Town Hall

      Still no news on the Carrach Wind Farm which would be opposite Balintore.

  2. Ah, David... I would love to attend. Alas, I am in Alabama USA. Long trek. I fear that if I were to show up over there, you would NEVER get rid of me! However, if wanting the matter to go public is what is needed, then it shall be. I deem it so! You need the Kennedy's over there. They were successful in having a windmill farm squashed because it would be within their view when on their yacht. I don't know that it ever came up again there.

  3. Hello Adam,

    We share your concern about the landscape clutter coursed by wind turbines. Specially because the economic value (without government subsidy) is to be disused. Its a shame that you have to put your effort into preserving natural values when all of your energy is necessary needed for your unbelievable restoration project. Wen approaching our holiday cottage Mill Cottage. we got intrigued by the landmark that Balintor Castle provides in its surrounding nature. Searching on the intent we found its history and the unbelievable restoration project that you took on your shoulders. We took the liberty to take a walk to the castle to get a better view on the restoration project. At least until we stumbled upon your barking alarm system and had to return from our investigation trip. We got close enough to see that you must have a very big heart for Balintor Castle and the need to prevent it for crumbling down. From the sight of the work that has already been done, we are confident that you won't stop until Balintore Castle is back in its full glory. We wish you all the luck, energy, inspiration, and funds to finish this remarkable dream and hope to admire the result some day.

    Lots of luck in you fight against the windmills,

    Kind regards,

    Jaap, Inge, Ron and Jaqueline from The Netherlands.