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Row brews over windfarm plan for Western Isles

A new row is brewing over plans for yet another massive wind farm on Lewis. Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) yesterday lodged an application for its “biggest ever” wind scheme with the Scottish Executive.

The firm wants permission to erect 57 of the world’s tallest turbines, each nearly 500ft high, across the hills and glens of Pairc in South Lochs, close to several villages and near to a popular tourist route.

Some islanders fear the £200million plan over 12 square miles will have a huge adverse visual impact since the turbines, running parallel to Loch Erisort, would be seen from Kinloch.

Two other controversial wind farms are under consideration at Barvas and Eishken, and if all three get the go-ahead, it will mean a chain of turbines from one end of Lewis to the other.

SSE earmarked Pairc for a 125-turbine development in 2003, and while the number of turbines has been scaled down, the turbines are very powerful, turning out 3.6MW each and giving a total capacity of 205MW.

A legal row is already under way about rights over the land and could become the first hostile crofting community land buyout bid under the new land Reform Act.

Some locals are concerned that some turbines are just a mile from their homes while others are close to the road winding through the district. Permission for a sub-station, quarries and access roads is also required, and further concern is over the adequacy of the roads to take heavy lorries bringing in construction materials.

SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said: “Our application to build a wind farm at Pairc follows five years of environmental and technical studies and discussions with the local community and I am confident that it will receive consent.” But one concerned villager said: “This is frightening. Just think we would have to live among all of these giant turbines. That is the reality. It does not bear thinking about.”

Local councillor Morag Munro said she had not yet gauged public reaction to the plan and would be consulting residents. The operators of the Arnish renewable energy manufacturing yard said the Pairc scheme would keep around 50 employees busy for a year just on the tubes and support around 100 construction jobs over two years. Between 15 to 25 jobs would come from ongoing servicing and maintenance when operational. Decisions over planning permission for the neighbouring Eishken wind farm also with 57 turbines and for 181 machines on North Lewis are awaited.

The Press and Journal

8 June 2007