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Wind farm ‘maps’ generate new row  

The RSPB has released a series of images which show the scale of plans for a huge wind farm planned for the Hebridean island of Lewis.

The charity has superimposed the plans onto a map of the Scottish mainland
to highlight the scale of the proposals.

The charity said the 234-turbine development would have an unprecedented
impact on hundreds of rare birds.

But the developers, Lewis Wind Power, said revised plans limited the effect
on local wildlife.

If it was built on the mainland, the wind farm would stretch north from
Edinburgh Zoo to beyond Methil on the other side of the Firth of Forth and
west to Dunfermline.

In the west, it would go from Central Station in Glasgow to Falkirk and
south to East Kilbride.

Ann McCall, head of planning and development with the bird charity, told
BBC Radio Scotland: "We hope these maps will illustrate to the people of
Scotland, and particularly MSPs, how this development would look if it were
to take place essentially in their back yard.

"By selecting a site protected under EU conservation legislation for this
huge wind farm, habitats of vital importance for birds and biodiversity are
being seriously threatened.

"We’ll be looking at the death of up to 50 golden eagles, 50 merlin, about
250 red throated divers, hundreds of dunlin, hundreds of golden plover too.

"We welcome renewables, but not at the expense of the environment. To
locate a wind farm in an area as sensitive as this is very foolish and
alternatives must be explored."

Economic benefits

Lewis Wind Power director David Hodkinson said concessions included
recreating peat habitats elsewhere during construction of the wind farm,
phasing construction activity to avoid the bird breeding season and taking
bird flight paths into consideration in the layout of the farm.

The scale of the proposed 40km long development would be matched by its
economic benefits and electrical output, he added.

He said: "Our environmental work and proposed design have both moved
forward considerably since our planning application was submitted in the
autumn of 2004.

"We are now confident that we would be able to minimise the effects of the
wind farm on birds through a combination of measures.

"These would include the removal of some of the proposed turbines and an
operating regime that would allow turbines to be switched off and rotated
in response to specific bird behaviours.

"We also now have a much better understanding of how to model the potential
effects of the wind farm on the birds, based on the continued survey work
we have undertaken."

Mr Hodkinson called on the RSPB to enter into constructive discussions with
developers.

He said: "We really would like to talk to the RSPB to see if we can reach
some sort of accommodation on this rather than have press releases with
words like ‘disaster’ written in them.

"It would be much better if we could sit down and work this thing through."

‘Nothing new’

Councillors in the Western Isles backed the plans in July.

Their decision came after planning officials recommended that the £400m
application – which prompted about 5,000 written objections – should go ahead.

The Scottish Executive is to have the final say on whether or not the wind
farm should be built.

Responding to the RSPB’s comments, the council’s vice-convener Angus
Campbell said: "Are they trying to show that the proposed wind farm is big?
We know that.

"But Lewis is a large island and superimposing maps on cities is plain silly."

He added: "The Comhairle, the democratically elected represented of the
Western Isles, carefully considered all these points in its deliberations
of the wind farm proposals and there is nothing new in the information and
misinformation being peddled by the RSPB who no-one has elected."

Residents living on Lewis have formed a campaign group against wind farm
developments, Moorlands Without Turbines (MWT).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4484236.stm

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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