An attempt to block a major wind farm project on a Scottish island has been thrown out by the Court of Session.
Campaigners claimed the granting of planning permission by Highland Council for 18 turbines on Skye was illegal and wanted it overturned.
It was claimed the turbines would present a danger to rare birds, such as golden eagles.
Amec Project Investments had applied for permission for the development at Edinbane on the island, which Highland Council granted last May.
Initially the plan was for 28 turbines, but this was reduced after discussions with the council and community.
Separate but related application for pits to extract road aggregate material for the development was also granted.
The court decision follows a letter from the Scottish Government last week, to developers Lewis Wind Power, that permission for an 181 turbine wind farm on the island was unlikely to be approved.
Skye Wind farm Action Group (SWAG), established to campaign against proposals to site turbines on the island, claimed the environmental statement provided by the company was defective because the developers had failed to consider alternatives and the plan presented a risk of flooding.
In a 30-page judgment, Lord Hodge found against the campaigners and dismissed their petition. He said: “While the documents which comprised Amec’s environmental statement fell far short of the ideal statement, I am satisfied that the respondents did not act illegally in accepting them as an environmental statement in this case.”
He added: “I am not persuaded that in the circumstances which eventuated the respondents were under any legal duty to require the study of alternative sites or that in failing to examine such sites they failed to take account of a relevant consideration.
“For the same reasons I am satisfied that the respondents did not act unreasonably in not instructing Amec to consider alternatives. Accordingly this ground of challenge fails.”
On the flood risk, the judge said: “There was no evidence before me, other than the petitioners’ assertions in correspondence, to support their averments that such flooding was likely to be a significant environmental effect.”
A series of studies were considered concerning the danger to golden eagles and Lord Hodge concluded the plan would not be a threat to pairs of the species.
The campaigners said they were considering an appeal while the developers were keen to start work on the wind farm.
John Hodgson, chairman of SWAG, said: “SWAG is naturally disappointed by the outcome of the case.
“The arguments were finely balanced and the conclusion seems to be that while the council’s procedures fell short of the ideal, the decision was not illegal.
“We will need to consider the judgment in detail before deciding on our response and a possible appeal. On a related note, we welcome Amec’s recent decision to further reduce the number of turbines on the Edinbane site.”
David Hodkinson, managing director of Amec’s wind energy business, said: “We are naturally delighted that Lord Hodge has found no fault with the work of the Highland Council’s team.
“We are confident that the Edinbane wind farm will make a real contribution to renewable energy generation and to the local economy. We look forward to delivering this project safely and with due consideration to the communities of Edinbane and Struan, whose support throughout the planning process has been inspiring.”
No-one from Highland Council was available to comment.
By Stewart Paterson
2 February 2008
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