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Concern over plan for Skye windfarm

Highland Council’s approval of a windfarm at Edinbane on Skye could cost Scottish taxpayers a massive fine, according to a Conservative euro-MP who believes the plan breached EU environment and wildlife laws.

Struan Stevenson and his Highland MSP colleague, Jamie McGrigor, have urged the new SNP-led Scottish Executive to call in Amec’s plan for a thorough re-examination at a public inquiry.

The 18-turbine development was approved unanimously in March at a Portree hearing attended by fewer than half the members of the Highland planning committee.

Flawed

The Skye Windfarm Action Group (Swag) confirmed yesterday it was seeking a judicial review on the grounds the application was accompanied by an inadequate environmental impact assessment.

The European Commission issued a “letter of formal notice” to “the UK authorities” in April 2006. A further letter issued in the past fortnight gives the UK a month to outline how the plan complied with the EU Habitats Directive.

The commission, which does not speak publicly about such matters at this early stage, will then decide whether to initiate proceedings in the European Court.

Mr Stevenson says in a letter to senior EC Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas: “The public has suffered from the ineptitude of Highland Council and SNH for too long in this application.

“It has been presented with a crude farrago of documents and invited to another flawed procedure which does not satisfy the aims of the habitats, birds or EIA (environmental impact assessment) directives.”

He told the Press and Journal dissatisfaction could lead to major fines and the executive being taken to court.

Swag chairman John Hodgson said: “We hope the council will realise that compliance with European law is mandatory and that it cannot ignore planning guidance and its own renewable energy strategy at will.”

Highland planning director John Rennilson said: “We wouldn’t have issued the planning permission unless we felt comfortable that we had followed the right procedures.”

David Hodkinson, managing director of Amec’s wind energy business, said: “We are happy that the decision to grant planning permission was sound and we are moving forward on that basis.”

A spokesman for the executive said: “We have received Mr Stevenson’s letter and a reply will be issued in due course.”

A Scottish Natural Heritage spokesman said: “We are satisfied that the report addresses the concerns about the impact of the proposal on the golden eagle population.”

The Press and Journal

14 June 2007