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Scotland: MSPs urged to protect night sky from wind turbines

Lynsey Bews — The Scotsman — September 29, 2013

Scottish Ministers have been urged to use planning policy to protect a dark sky park which astronomers and land charities say is being threatened by applications for wind turbines.

Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park was officially opened by First Minister Alex Salmond in October last year.

But the dark skies that made the park possible are now being threatened by applications from developers and energy firms, according to the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, the John Muir Trust and the Scottish Wild Land Group.

In an open letter to the Scottish Government, they have asked for an update to planning policy to rule out the construction of wind farms near the dark sky park.

Mark Gibson, chairman of the board of trustees of the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, said there are currently nine separate sets of proposals for turbines at various stages of planning within sight of the park’s observatory.

Mr Gibson said that, while some planning applications had been rejected, there are fears that if even one is approved, it could open the door for further development.

Ministry of Defence and Aviation Authority safety requirements mean that wind turbines must be illuminated by infra-red light and, in some areas used regularly for training or search and rescue, visible light illumination may also be required.

Turbines near the park could fall into the latter category, and would affect both the ability of astronomers to use sensitive equipment, and the current visibility of stars, galaxies, comets and Northern Lights.

The park is home to the only publicly accessible, research-grade observatory within a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park in the world. The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory estimates that it will attract 100,000 visitors each year within five years of being established.  Read full article, here….

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