A key European Union commissioner has spoken out over building on protected land – a contentious issue at the very heart of the Lewis wind farm controversy.
The Scottish Government has provisionally denied permission to build 176 giant turbines in development which would industrialised strips of the Lewis moor.
In a letter to Lewis Windpower, it revealed that the sole grounds for refusal are the “unacceptable damage” to a number of threatened wild birds species.
In response, Western Isles Council launched an intense battle to try and persuade the Government to change its mind.
The council desperately wants the wind farm for its £ 125 community fund and regeneration potential.
It also made repeated accusations that the environmental designations across the moorland is blocking development.
However, in Brussels on Thursday, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas made a speech which is seen by some as criticism of the council’s stance.
Mr Dimas stressed: “Our climate mitigation policies should not come at the expense of bio-diversity. We have very important targets to achieve for renewable energies but we need to be very careful about how and where they are developed.”
He urged strategic planning to achieve the right balance.
The top European Union commissioner hit out at the “myth” that Euro rules prevents building work on environmentally protected land like the Lewis Peatlands.
Mr Dimas insisted that it is “simply not true” that “all economic activities have to stop” on protected sites
He stressed: “Even major development projects can be carried out once certain safeguards have been respected.”
He said that the loss of bio-diversity is a global threat that is equally serious and urgent as climate change: “In one crucial way it is more worrying since there is no way to reverse extinction.”
20 February 2008
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