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Windfarm protesters on Skye in court threat

Anti windfarm campaigners on Skye last night threatened legal action in a bid to ensure a long-opposed development on the island would never happen.

Opponents of Amec’s Edinbane proposal stated their intent shortly after Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) withdrew its objection to a reduced 18-turbine project.

That followed consideration of a fresh consultants’ estimate, commissioned by the developers, of the likely impact on golden eagles within the protected area surrounding the site.

Ornithological consultants Haworth Conservation concluded that the likelihood of bird collision with turbine blades was “low” and that if the 330ft high machines caused any displacement of eagles there would be “sufficient alternative habitat available elsewhere on the island”.

Kristin Scott, SNH area manager, said: “The (previous) August 2006 planning submission was ambiguous about the likely effects of the proposal on this species, and therefore we lodged a holding objection.

“We are now confident that any effects on golden eagles will be minor and therefore feel able to withdraw our earlier objection.”

John Hodgson, chairman of the Skye Windfarm Action Group, believed SNH’s withdrawal of its objection amounted to a breach of Scots and EU law. He said: “It is a requirement that if an SPA (Special Protection Area) is involved that an assessment, using the best available science, must demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that the SPA will not be affected. The assessment does not meet this criterion.

“In addition, SNH’s submission illegally suggests conditions to defend protected species. It would appear that our only recourse now, should Highland Council recommend acceptance, will be to go to court.” Amec’s proposals have attracted just 120 letters of support while the council has had 654 letters and 812-signature petition objecting to the plan on grounds ranging from national policy to visual impact and the effects of the proposal on tourism and bird life. An objection from the RSPB stands.

David Hodkinson, managing director of Amec’s wind energy business, said last night: “We are delighted that the additional work we have done to satisfy SNH’s concerns has been successful. We look forward to the Edinbane proposal being considered by the council on March 9 free of any statutory objections.”

In contrast, SNH warned that the massive windpark planned for Lewis could damage important wildlife sites on that island and is maintaining its objection to that 181-turbine proposal on the grounds that it could adversely affect internationally protected peatlands.

By Iain Ramage


21 February 2007