Western Isles councillors last night agreed to recommend ministers approve plans for the wind farm proposed for Lewis, which has polarised island opinion.
The majority of councillors are desperate the community does not miss an opportunity which could bring around £6m a year in benefits. Opponents, however, dispute the level of benefit and argued that island opinion is opposed to the wind farm.
Councillors representing the most affected townships in the north and west of the island represent the opposition on the council. One is Annie Macsween of Ness, where 90% of residents voted against the scheme.
She said: “The people of Ness are not Luddites. We are looking at renewable energy and the future of the community. But it’s different when this development will have such an effect on the community.”
But vice-convener Angus Campbell said: “We cannot hide behind romantic notions that there is no need for these jobs.”
Following last night’s vote, a council spokesman said: “The decision rests with the executive but the council has clearly set its decision to approve the application subject to more than 50 conditions.
Lewis Windpower (LWP) wants to build 181 turbines, pylons, 50 miles of roads, sub-stations, quarries and compounds between Stornoway, Shawbost and Ness.
However, the council last night agreed the number of turbines be reduced by five.
Around 426 jobs would be created over the four years to erect the turbines which could mean a wage bill of almost £30m. But only 37 jobs would be needed for its operation though the average salary is estimated to be at £35,100.
David Hodkinson, LWP director, said: “We are delighted with the council’s decision, which we see as a milestone in the development of the Lewis Wind Farm.”
By David Ross