Lewis Wind Power’s project to create the UK’s largest onshore wind farm would support only 70 jobs ‘at best’ – and not 233 posts as alleged by the company.
This is the claim in a study carried out on behalf of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) by global real estate adviser DTZ Consulting, concerning the economic assessment of the plan for the Barvas Moor where it is proposed to build 181 wind turbines.
David Hodkinson, Lewis Wind Power director, said: “We look forward to studying the contents of the report, but do wonder why RSPB is having to broaden its campaign against the Lewis Wind Farm away from the bird interests that are at the heart of its charitable status and Royal Charter.”
He added: “The economic development reports accompanying our proposal have been assessed by a number of bodies and organisations with economic development expertise. We note that the work commissioned by the RSPB stands alone in disagreeing with our assessment that the Lewis wind farm would bring strong economic benefits to the Outer Hebrides.”
A leading Scottish economist and former technical advisor to Western Isles Council has backed up the DTZ report, which estimates that the number of jobs created on the Western Isles by the wind farm would be 70% less than the developers claim. Furthermore, it is stated that the negative impact on the local tourism sector has not been taken into account at all by LWP.
“If reductions in tourism are taken into account, the net employment impact of the scheme proposed for the Western Isles could be zero,” it is claimed.
Lewis Wind Power’s Environmental Statement contains an economic assessment by Regeneris Consulting, which states that 137 jobs will be supported during the development phase of the wind farm, and that a further 233 jobs will be supported once the wind farm becomes operational.
However, the DTZ analysis, commissioned by RSPB Scotland, claims that these figures are ‘misleading and hugely optimistic’.
Stephen Lucas, Director of Economics at consultancy DTZ said: “The developer claims that over 230 jobs will result from the wind farm and various payments to landowners and the community. However, this assessment does not stand up to scrutiny. Our own assessment is that the development will support at best around 70 jobs in the Western Isles, and even this result ignores the potentially considerable harmful effects of the development on the Isles’ tourism economy and the jobs that visitors support. Factoring in the potential harmful effects on tourism – which the developer has not attempted to do – could mean that the LWP project could result in a net negative impact on the local economy.”
Strathclyde University’s Emeritus Professor of Economics Iain McNicoll described the original Regeneris view as ‘rose tinted’, adding that: “A reasonable interpretation of the evidence presented by DTZ and Regeneris would be that the expected value of the wind farm’s multiplier impact on the Western Isles is approximately zero. This means that this aspect of the project’s contribution is essentially neutralised in assessing its overall net worth. Thus, other issues become predominant in appraising the project and making a final yes/no decision.”
Overall, the DTZ analysis found that a more realistic estimate for job opportunities in the Western Isles, if the LWP development goes ahead, would be just 73 once operation commences, and these jobs could well be off-set by losses in tourism.
Neil Evans, director of Regeneris Consulting, said: “An initial review of the work carried out by DTZ raises a number of concerns but there are two main areas, which stand out, where economic impacts have been severely underestimated. The first suggests that they didn’t take the time to interview any of the economic development organisations in the Western Isles and therefore did not realise that the annual payments would be part of an investment programme creating jobs throughout the life of the wind farm and the second is that they have chosen to predict a negative impact on tourism which is pure conjecture.”
He went on: “Regeneris Consulting has used a range of widely accepted economic assessment techniques, adopting a cautious approach to the estimation of the type and scale of impacts. To ensure the results were reasonable, the techniques and the impact estimates were tested through extensive consultation with economic development organisations in the Western Isles.”
Mr Evans continued: “RSPB’s assumption of a significant negative impact is pure conjecture not supported by a balanced interpretation of the available evidence,” added Mr Evans.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is asking consultants to provide evidence of why their findings on the number of forecast jobs resulting from a windfarm are so at odds with those of other economic experts.
Vice-Convener Angus Campbell said: “Obviously we will look at this study in detail but it does seem odd that their findings are so at variance with others. I would like to invite those involved in the study to the Western Isles to present their evidence. Certainly there is little evidence in the press release issued by the RSPB. There also seem to be assumptions without evidence, for instance, the claim that ‘it is reasonable to assume a 10% contraction in the tourism industry’.
“Why is it reasonable to assume that? Where is the evidence? I would also ask the RSPB why they are now concentrating on socio-economic factors when they have always argued that their remit is purely concerned with birds, not people. Perhaps the RSPB know their arguments on birds versus windfarms do not stack up, given that climate change is the biggest threat facing bird species,” he said.
With Monday being the deadline for submissions to the Scottish Executive, Moorland Without Turbines (MWT) have been urging the public to protest against Lewis Wind Power’s plans.
MWT’s team of volunteers have also been very active in the last week. They have been distributing information on Lewis Wind Power’s resubmission of its application for the North Lewis moor.
Households in Galson Estate and Barvas Estate, as well as Newmarket, Stornoway and other areas, have been given help with how to object. Galson and Barvas Estate crofters also received information on how to oppose resumption of their grazings, should LWP ever get to the stage of trying to resume land from crofting.
Meanwhile, two contrasting films, showing ‘real life experiences of windfarms’, were shown in An Lanntair in Stornoway by MWT last night (Wednesday).
Said a MWT spokesperson: “These films were not propoganda by anti-windfarm protestors. They were shot by public sector broadcasters ““ RTE in Ireland, and NRK in Norway. The Irish experience centred on peat, very relevant to the situation here in Lewis. The Norwegian film ‘Angels with tainted wings’ was a production of Norway’s public broadcaster, and looked at the effect of Norwegian windfarms on birdlife. Again, very relevant to the situation here ““ and very frightening, when the evidence of dead eagles was so graphically shown.”
The spokesperson went on: “Both films served as warnings as to what might happen in Lewis, should badly sited industrial windfarms be allowed to go ahead.”
01 February 2007
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