Western Isles Council has failed to make a decision on proposals by Scottish and Southern Energy to erect 57 of the largest onshore wind turbines in the world – each almost 500ft high – on the Pairc Estate, Isle of Lewis.
Rather than endorsing a planning officer’s recommendation to accept a reduced scheme involving 26 giant turbines, mostly on crofters’ grazings in the south-east corner of the island, councillors indicated their support for a revised scheme and recommended that the Scottish Government invite the company to submit a fresh application.
Ministers had given the council until yesterday to declare its view on a 205MW scheme which originally envisaged 125 turbines on the island.
Councillors were reluctant to follow the recommendation of planning officer Keith Bray who advised ditching 31 turbines on the grounds that they were too close to homes or because they might prove a blot on the landscape.
However, most of the remaining turbines would be on private land which would leave crofters losing out on promised compensation payments.
The initial plans included a £14million pledge to the community.
Site rent payments could mean additional sums if a proposed community land buyout goes ahead.
Pairc councillor Philip Maclean pressed colleagues to delay any decision pending a reappraisal of the plan, stressing that a significant reduction in turbines had “taken the community by surprise” and would result in a “loss of economic benefit to the wider community.”
Councillors neither stated their approval nor disagreement on the planning application.
The council, while failing to make a decision, is eager to avoid a costly public local inquiry.
Catriona Campbell, chairwoman of campaign group Moorland Without Turbines, said: “This decision will please no one. It leaves the Pairc community in complete limbo and inviting SSE to submit another revised application is just prolonging the agony.
“It is three years since the first planning applications for major windfarms on Lewis were submitted. Since then environmental problems and missing information have meant the developers have had to submit numerous revisions, each requiring public consultation. This decision is just more of the same and a total waste of public time and money.”
She added that local ballots had found against both the windfarm and proposals for a massive inter-connector that would be required to export the power. There are also serious environmental concerns centred on the Pairc peninsula being one of the most important areas in the UK for eagles.
The onus is now on ministers to interpret the council’s view. The council has, however, urged SSE to return with revised plans. A spokeswoman for SSE said: “We will await the outcome from ministers.”
15 December 2007
Mòinteach gun Mhuileann – Moorland without Turbines: www.mwtlewis.org.uk
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