A government agency objecting to a wind farm in the West Mainland has been strongly criticised at the start of a public inquiry into the project.
Historic Scotland claims that the three-turbine Merranblo development would have a severe adverse impact on the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
That was rejected by Major Malcolm Macrae, one of two Orkney businessmen involved in the Merranblo venture.
He also disagreed with concerns expressed by another objector that the islands were at risk of losing World Heritage status if the windfarm goes ahead.
Major Macrae said in his opening statement to the inquiry that he fundamentally disagreed with the position adopted by Historic Scotland.
“I find that organisation surprisingly unrealistic, lacking in intellectual rigour, inconsistent, and making little normal everyday common sense,” he said.
Historic Scotland was equating the visibility of the proposed turbines with a serious adverse impact on the World Heritage Site, Major Macrae told the inquiry.
But the organisation had failed to define ‘any clear methodology leading to their conclusions’, the nature of the alleged impact the turbines would have – or the reasons for the claimed severity of this impact.
There was a surprise announcement at the start of the inquiry, when Stromness Community Development Trust withdrew its objection to the proposals.
Chairman Dr John Brown said that after extensive negotiations over the weekend, the trust was now satisfied that the developers were committed to delivering a range of social and economic benefits to the local community.
This was described as an eleventh-hour ‘bombshell’ by Colin Kirkpatrick, from Orkney Skyline Concern.
He said the trust had been given a clear mandate at a public meeting in Stromness to object at the inquiry to the Merranblo wind farm.
But the inquiry reporter (the official in charge of the proceedings), Ian Lumsden, said this was a matter for Mr Kirkpatrick and the local community.
“If you think they’ve gone back on this agreement, it’s up to you to take it up with them,” he said.
By David Hartley
21 January 2008
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