Western Isles Council has been warned that it faces legal action if it approves a controversial windfarm today.
Objectors see the “alternative” planning application for a giant windfarm at Eishken, Lewis, as a method to circumvent a public inquiry.
Estate owner Nick Oppenheim wants to build 16 controversial turbines in his third attempt to secure planning permission.
When built, it would create about four maintenance jobs, plus about three in its economic regeneration strategy.
But the scheme is already part of a larger 53-turbine development, which will be scrutinised by a public inquiry in May.
The parallel application for 16 machines around the slopes of Feiriosbhal on the Eisgein estate is under 50 megawatt capacity and will be officially debated by the Western Isles Council, which previously backed the same turbines in the co-current application on the same site.
Councillors will be told that Lewis-based anti-giant windfarm group MWT claims the local authority is acting beyond its legal powers by making a decision “given that it amounts to pre-empting the public inquiry and decision by the Scottish Government on the previous larger application. It may also lead to a judicial review.” Planners say that campaigners sought counsel’s opinion on the legal situation and “an action for judicial review is very likely to ensue. The proper course for the council is to refuse the current application or to remit the decision to Scottish ministers to be considered together with the previous application.”
Opponents said that granting planning permission will have “irreversible consequences” and urged the council to wait for the result of the inquiry.
The council acknowledges that its stance could be challenged in the law courts, but only if it can be proved that the council’s approach was irrational.
However, lawyers have assured Western Isles Council that it can legally deal with this case even though the same turbines will be the subject of the public inquiry.
According to the local authority, the legal grounds are that it is “materially different” from the larger 53-machine scheme because of scale, the planning issues involved and that they come under different legislation.
The council insists that its decision on the 16 turbine scheme will not prejudice the public inquiry.
Councillors look set to back a recommendation from planning officials to cut just three prominent machines and to allow 13 turbines to be built.
20 February 2008
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