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Anti-windfarm group's fund query

The challenge to the approval of a Skye windfarm will take a new twist in the Court of Session next week.

For Highland Council and the developer AMEC will demand whether an anti windfarm lobby have the cash to pay them legal costs should they lose their court appeal against the granting of planning permission for 17 turbines at Edinbane by Highland Council.

The Skye Windfarm Action Group Ltd (Swag) was granted leave by the Court of Session to challenge Highland Council’s planning consent wind farm.

The date initially set for the hearing was July 2008. However, Highland Council and developers AMEC were granted leave for an earlier court hearing.

Lord Clarke accepted Highland Council’s argument that they needed to know if they were in the wrong due to the implications the result could have for all the other wind farms in the planning process, and considered the case to be of such importance that the first available date should be allocated for the case. The hearing will now start on October 2, 2007.

The fresh twist comes as Highland Council and AMEC Wind, are now asking the court to order that Swag “put their money where there mouth is.”

Next Tuesday at the Court of Session they will seek application from the court for “caution for expenses” in the sum of £120,000 to cover their costs. Swag member John Hodgson said last night lawyers acting for the group will vigorously oppose this application.

Highland Council spokes-man Gordon Fyfe said: “We can confirm that we are going to the Court of Session to ask them (Swag) to produce a bond to show that they can cover the likely bill should they lose the case. This is because we have to protect the council tax-payers in this matter.” It is likely the October 2 challenge will last eight days and cost Highland Council £40,000 and Amec £80,000. When Swag was last night asked if, indeed, they had the cash behind them, they could not to comment further on the advice of their lawyers. The Edinbane application was approved in March at a Portree hearing attended by fewer than half the members of Highland’s planning committee.

Swag claims the council failed to ensure that the planning application was accompanied by a sufficient environmental impact assessment, that it failed to outline reasons for not considering alternative sites, that it failed to consider a potential flood risk from the scheme and claims there were procedural anomalies concerning planning consent for a borrow pit (quarry).

The group also claims the council breached EU habitats legislation regarding possible implications for the neighbouring Cuillins Special Protection Area.

The Press and Journal

1 September 2007