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Heritage body in U-turn over island wind farm  

Scottish Natural Heritage delighted islanders on Harris yesterday by withdrawing its objections to their tiny community wind farm but angered others in Pairc in Lewis for opposing 57 wind turbines there.

However, there was some good news for the community in Pairc yesterday, with the Scottish Government confirming that they can now proceed to buy out a disputed wind farm lease from the estate owner.

SNH had caused outrage when it opposed the erection of just three turbines on land owned by the community-led North Harris Trust, because they would be on part of a National Scenic Area (NSA).

The 2.5 megawatt project could earn £150,000 a year for local investment by the community, but looked as though it would be delayed by a public inquiry following SNH’s opposition despite having approval from the Western Isles Council. But yesterday the agency announced it would not stand in the community’s way.

SNH area manager in the Western Isles, David Maclennan, said the agency was aware of the strong local support for this project. “We stand by our advice. This development will have an impact on the national scenic area and visual amenity.

“With SNH as the only objector, however, this is something of a special case and we are doubtful of the value of a full public inquiry. We have therefore retained our advice but withdrawn the objection.”

David Cameron, on behalf of the Board of North Harris Trading Co Ltd a subsidiary of the North Harris Trust, welcomed SNH’s decision. He said: “The proposed public local inquiry should therefore no longer be required and we hope that the necessary procedures to obtain full planning approval will now happen as quickly as possible.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said as things stood the inquiry would proceed because there had been no official notification of SNH’s decision. However, most observers now expect the inquiry to be cancelled.

Whether ministers will want an inquiry into the Pairc proposal is not yet clear. Although there are 57 massive turbines proposed, there is no designated area such as an NSA to trigger an inquiry.

But the Pairc development is already highly controversial. In 2004 the local crofting community voted overwhelmingly in favour of pursuing a buyout of the 25,000 acre Pairc Estate. Barry Lomas, the Warwickshire accountant whose family company owns the estate, made clear that he had no plans to sell the land, setting the stage for the first potential hostile buyout by a crofting community under the land reform legislation. That may not be necessary as there are now signs of compromise.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said that consideration had been given to the Scottish Land Court ruling and how it applied to the Pairc case. She said: “The Pairc Trust now have the opportunity to buy out the interposed lease.” It would be up to the trust to add lease to their original application, but they would not need to start the lengthy process again.

Donnie Macdonald, Pairc Trust spokesman, said: “It is brilliant news about the lease, but not so good about SNH. Where was the consultation before they announced their objection. They are supposed to be acting in our interests but now they are putting obstacles in our way.”

By David Ross
Highland Correspondent

The Herald

4 September 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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