In November 2003, Lewis Wind Power took a lease from Galson Estates as a stage in the development of the North Lewis wind-farm project.
As substantial areas of land – mainly common grazing land – would be required, both parties made mutual undertakings to do whatever might be required to “resume” the required land from crofting tenure and to assume vacant possession of common grazings.
The developer thereby appeared to be very much in the driving seat, but subsequent events have drained the developer’s power to proceed as planned.
Since the community buyout in April 2006, the Galson community owns the Galson Estate. Most of its members strongly oppose resumption of their crofts or the withdrawal of their grazing rights to make way for the project. The crofters from the neighbouring Barvas Estate have declared their intention to oppose any similar attempts to interfere with their rights. The Barvas community is currently considering a buyout of its estate.
Lewis Wind Power now has to deal with the community representatives, who are unlikely to relinquish their rights. Previously, crofters had the role of voiceless tenants. Now they may exercise their democratic right as equal members of the owning community. The wind-farm proposals will certainly be opposed by community members.
The likelihood of Lewis Wind Power proceeding with the project is up in the air for a separate and compelling reason. The Scots Law relating to interposed leases was clarified by the Scottish Land Court in the Pairc case in August 2007.
In that case, affecting a wind farm proposed for the Pairc Estate in Lewis, the court established as a precedent that there could not be a valid interposed lease over common grazings and that an ordinary lease of common grazing land would be subject to the existing rights of the grazing shareholders to graze and water their sheep and cattle, and that accordingly a “lessee’s rights to use the land would be extremely restricted”.
The projected LWP wind farm would be sited for the most part on common grazing land, but the crofters would be entitled to maintain their priority right of access to and continued use of all of that land.
This would surely preclude any large-scale alternative use of the Galson lands for the project.
DONALD MacLEOD, Duror, Appin, Argyllshire
24 January 2008
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