The company behind plans for a massive Scottish green energy development that could generate more than 400 jobs is facing a race against time to save the project.
It is understood the Scottish Government has written to Lewis Wind Power saying it is “minded to refuse” an application to build a 181-turbine windfarm on the island.
Ministers have given the company 21 days to show why the project should not be rejected.
Reports that the scheme is in jeopardy have been greeted with delight by opposition campaigners, who claim it would be detrimental to important habitats.
The development was approved by Western Isles councillors nearly a year ago but responsibility for the final decision was passed to the Scottish Government.
Last week, Lewis Wind Power revealed that the turbine towers would be manufactured at the work-starved Arnish fabrication yard at Stornoway if it won permission.
The £512million project would create about 400 jobs in the Highlands and the Western Isles.
Lewis Wind Power said yesterday: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to make a swift decision on our application for Barvas Moor. We continue a dialogue with Scottish Government officials about our application.”
A government spokesman said: “The Lewis windfarm application is under consideration by Scottish ministers. No final decision has yet been taken and ministers are working towards finalising and announcing a decision in the near future.”
Western Isles Council vice-convener Angus Campbell said the islands would suffer if the plans were thrown out.
“This is a bitter blow for the Western Isles,” he said. “An opportunity to help us revitalise our economy has been lost. However, at least we now know the cost of environmental designations to the Western Isles – 400 construction jobs, 70 jobs at Arnish, 70 jobs associated directly with the windfarm, £6million per annum in community benefit, £4million in rental payments.
“The comhairle (council) will now engage with the Scottish Government to discuss their plans for how the economy of the Western Isles can be developed.
“They must make clear what their vision is for the islands. Are we to become an environmental museum? Is any development at all to be allowed in the Western Isles?”
The news was welcomed by local anti-windfarm campaigner Dinah Murray, who said: “We are absolutely over the moon. We were opposed to this development from the start on the visual impact, on the damage to the landscape, the damage to the habitat, the damage to the moorland and also the danger there would be on the roads during construction.”
John Muir Trust chief executive Nigel Hawkins said: “If this is true, it is a very welcome decision for economic, social and environmental reasons.
“The Western Isles depend heavily on tourism for their economy. That tourism is based primarily on the attractive landscape and abundant wildlife and the evidence is that fewer people would wish to visit if this scheme goes ahead.
“Islanders recognise that this area is a very special one both for humans and for the birds and other wildlife there, and because it is a major peatland.”
RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: “At this time our response can simply be based on the speculation currently circulating but, if the decision to refuse the application is confirmed by Scottish ministers, we would welcome it.”
Western Isles SNP MSP Alasdair Allen welcomed reports that ministers had reached a decision. He said: “People have reached a stage where they wanted an answer and they have now received that.
“I opposed the application because I felt its sheer scale and location made it unacceptable to the communities it would have affected most directly.”
26 January 2008
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