February 15, 2008

Windfarm compromise appeal

A special appeal to allow the controversial giant Lewis wind farm to go-ahead in stages over the next eight years was expected to be lodged with the Scottish Government tonight (Fri)
Lewis Windpower (LWP) looks likely to urge government minister Jim Mather to permit a compromise over planning permission for the massive £ 520 million renewable energy scheme.
It received 10,000 objections but supporters asked First Minister Alex Salmond to intervene amid grave concerns that an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is slipping away because of the loss of the £ 6 million of annual community benefit from the developers.
The cash would have been invested into kick starting the local economy to creating jobs and stimulate new commercial activity.
LWP had until 5 pm tonight (Friday) to submit its challenge – a formal letter of response – to government planners who say that they are “minded to refuse” its planning application to build a chain of 176 turbines between Stornoway and Ness.
It would be Europe’s biggest onshore windfarm but LWP needs a special exemption to permit building on the moor which is protected by European environment laws.
LWP, a partnership between British Energy and Amec, will argue its case that EU habitat rules over protecting wild bird species are being implemented particularly harshly in Scotland compared to other states.
The developer has indicated it will accept part consent for a scaled-down windfarm.
LWP will also make a case for a phased-in development of all 176 machine and to stagger the construction of the scheme over eight years or so to allow real-time assessment of any impact on wild bird species to be assessed it is understood.
Such an arrangement would require a planning condition to limit building up to a third or half of the windfarm, perhaps 30 to 80 machines, in the first phase.
This would be followed by up to two years of operation followed by a satisfactory conclusion over the impact on wild birds before a second phase of construction would commence.
Under this idea, a second and third set of turbines would only be erected if fresh surveys show that environmental damage is not as bad as initially feared.
The level of damage to wild bird species on the moor during the first two years of the working turbines would determine if planning permission is granted for the next construction stage.
LWP will suggest examples of past practice in the UK and Europe where major schemes feared to threatened the environment have proceeded on the basis of a phased development.
One obvious example is the London Array offshore wind farm in the Thames Estuary some 12 miles off the Kent Coast where initial construction is restricted to 175 turbines. In agreement with the RSPB the other 100 will only be built if it is proved there is no excess harm to a colony of internationally important red throated divers.
Western Isles Council’s vice convenor Angus Campbell, who has lobbied the Scottish Government intensely to approved the wind farm, said: “We urge the government to look at the compromise scenario and allow an incremental increase of turbines.
“This would be a starting point and allows a way forward.”
A LWP spokesman declined to discuss the contents of the formal letter of response.
LWP met with government planners on Tuesday to discuss the developer’s arguments to permit approval.
The devloper said: “We had a very detailed and constructive meeting during which it was confirmed by the government officials that a final decision has not yet been made.”
At the time the firm said: “We hope that that the information we provide is enough to convince the Government that this project can deliver in terms of economic impact and the fight against climate change, and that it can approve this project whilst complying with European Law.”
LWP says the long-term investment would provide new jobs, stem depopulation and create decades of commercial and community enterprise.

But the government fears it could be sued in the European Courts if it passed the development which it insists breaks Euro rules on legally protected wild bird species and sensitive land.
LWP initially applied to erect 181 turbines but cut out five machines on the request of Western Isles Council.

Hebrides News

15 February 2008

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2008/02/15/windfarm-compromise-appeal/