Almost £1m of lottery funding is being granted for the first time to help finance the construction of a wind farm, sparking a row over the use of “good cause money” for such projects.
The Big Lottery Fund said £900,000 would be given to the plan to build three wind turbines on Harris. Islanders welcomed the announcement, saying the development would boost the local economy and benefit an island which has lost more than half of its population in the past 50 years.
But opponents of wind farms said last night that it was an “inappropriate” use of lottery money.
Michael Hird, editor of the Country Guardian’s website which links all the local groups opposing wind farm developments in Scotland with the rest of the UK, said: “We do not think it is appropriate that lottery money, which is supposed to be spent on good causes, is spent supporting a highly contentious sector like wind farms.
“If the lottery wants to help tackle climate change it should fund projects which help and not unreliable ones which only produce 27% of the energy they are supposed to produce.”
The wind farm proposal comes from the North Harris Trust which in 2002 successfully pursued a community buyout of the 55,000-acre North Harris Estate.
The three wind turbines are projected to generate income averaging £180,000 each year over 12 years.
The plan was approved by Western Isles Council, but it looked like there would be a lengthy delay in the summer because an objection by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had triggered a costly public inquiry.
SNH was concerned because the turbines would be on part of a national scenic area, but subsequently removed its objection.
Yesterday’s award from the Big Lottery Fund will meet half of the estimated £1.8m construction costs.
Harris councillor Morag Munro said it was entirely appropriate that lottery money was spent to help a fragile island community.
“This is a very small development which is not going to have an adverse impact on the scenery,” she said. “It is not controversial and is clearly supported locally.
“It will be run for the community and any money earned will be invested locally to help economic recovery and stem depopulation.”
The Big Lottery Fund also announced a grant of £200,000 for the Ore Valley Housing Association for a feasibility plan for a proposed medium scale wind farm near Cardenden, Fife.
The fund’s Scotland chairwoman, Alison Magee, justified the awards and added: “On North Harris and in central Fife, communities will now be able to have their say in how they want their energy produced and, equally importantly, how they would like to see the profits from the sale of that energy invested.”
By David Ross
3 April 2008
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