A controversial giant wind farm has been recommended for approval this week after winning the support of senior planning officials, it has emerged.
In documents due to be released to the public later this week, Keith Bray, senior planner at Western Isles Council, has recommended councillors approve the proposals for the 181-turbine scheme at Barvas Moor, north Lewis.
The planning committee is due to debate the issue on Thursday before it is presented to the full council for ratification next week.
Given the work involved in analysing the bulky planning application, it was initially anticipated that the issue would be discussed in March or even require a special meeting in April.
But Mr Bray pushed on with the Lewis Windpower application over the Christmas holidays to allow the council to make its decision well before the forthcoming elections.
However, the closing date for objections to the wind farm is not until 5pm this evening and representations continue to pour in with many people lodging last minute points via e-mail.
Representations from statutory bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are still being awaited by the council but are understood to have been received by the Scottish Executive, which will make the final decision.
A study – criticised by the council – by economic experts and commissioned by the RSPB questioned the hundreds of jobs which the developers say would be created. It was not submitted to planners in time to feed into the report, but such extra information will be raised at the meeting.
The recommendation for approval is conditional upon a satisfactory deal for “community benefit”, moving a few turbines by a few metres plus a number of other measures to be agreed.
Officials at Lewis Windpower (LWP), a partnership between Amec and British Energy, insist they were forced by Scottish Executive to move the plans for the world’s largest onshore turbines close to houses and main roads rather than to the centre of the moor.
Thousands of tonnes of peat would be excavated from the moor despite its legal international environmental protection, promoted by the government and Western Isles Council.
Massive amounts of concrete and aggregates will be poured into the ground as the industrialisation of the peatlands expands with giant foundations, wide roads and sub-stations being built in addition to new quarries and compounds.
Around 90 per cent of nearby residents surveyed are opposed to the wind farm, which needs its massive 650MW capacity to justify building a huge cable under the Minch to export the electricity.
Western Isles Council approved a larger scheme in 2005, but LWP recently re-lodged revised plans for a lesser number of higher-powered turbines.
Angus Nicolson, the planning chairman, said: “It is a huge responsibility to chair the committee to deal with the application for one of the biggest wind farms in the world. We will focus on the data and detail which is in the application.We will gather as much information as possible and look for a high-quality debate.”
By Murdo MacLean
5 February 2007
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