Lewis residents and conservation groups have vowed to continue to fight attempts to build the UK’s largest on-shore wind farm on the Hebridean island after plans were submitted today for a revised scheme with 53 fewer turbines.
Improvements in renewable technology have allowed the developers, Lewis Wind Farm, to cut the number of proposed turbines by 23% from 234 to 181, with only a 7% reduction in the amount of power the plant could produce.
The revised plans are likely to get the backing of the Western Isles council, which supported the original proposals in principle, but questioned the location of 25 wind turbines. All but four of those turbines had been cut from the revised plans, as well as 32 others.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said it was “enormously concerned” by the plans, which it claimed flouted European rules on protecting wildlife. The area is home to eight species of Europe’s most endangered birds, including eight pairs of golden eagles.
The society said it was worried that insensitive placement of the 140m turbines could destroy the habitat of wading birds and possibly cause collisions between larger birds. It said a new wind farm in Norway was currently killing off endangered white-tailed sea eagles at the rate of one a month.
Stuart Housden, the director of RSPB Scotland, said: “This application to locate the UK’s largest wind farm on top of one of Scotland’s most sensitive and important sites for wildlife is of enormous concern.”
He said the revised proposals still amounted to “a large, industrial-scale development which includes not only wind turbines but an extensive road network, pylons, miles of cabling, substations and quarries”.
“It is hard to imagine that all this can be delivered without having some significant level of impact on such an important environmental areas which has EU protection.”
The original plans prompted 4,000 islanders to sign a petition against them. Catriona Campbell, the chair of Moorland Without Turbines, which organised the petition, said the revised plans were “outrageous and completely unacceptable”.
She said the timing of the new planning application, just before Christmas, would restrict public consultation over the plans.
“These planning applications are enormous technical documents which are extremely difficult reading. To ask people to do this over the festive season is unbelievable. This cynical move by Lewis Wind Power shows the contempt with which they hold this community. Ballot after ballot has told them to leave, but we seen them returning once more. It is a disgrace.”
Calum Ian McIver, the head of economic development, at Western Isles council, said local opposition to the scheme had been exaggerated.
“There is a hard core of 10 or so people who are actively against it,” he said and pointed out that an Ispsos Mori poll in August found that 41% of islanders backed the plans, while 40% were against them.
He said: “It represents a significant social and economic opportunity and it will make a national contribution to tackling global warming and reducing carbon emissions.”
Alasdair Morrison, the Labour MSP for the Western Isles, also backed the plans, saying they would “play an important role in the future prosperity of the Outer Hebrides”.
“The Outer Herbrides has the best renewable resources in the European Union. I am committed to ensuring that our communities are at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution.”
Mr Morrison said he would urge the RSPB to fully consider the application before forming an opinion.
The developers have promised that the wind farm would generate 400 local jobs during its four-year construction and £3m a year in rent when it began operating.
By Matt Weaver
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding