Government under fire after revealing it did not seek EC guidance before rejecting plans.
The Scottish Government came under fire yesterday after revealing that it did not seek guidance from the European Commission before rejecting plans for a 181-turbine windfarm on the Barvas Moor in Lewis.
Highland Labour MSP Peter Peacock said the admission in a written reply from Energy Minister Jim Mather “beggared belief”.
And he said the government had passed up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to resurrect the economy of the Western Isles, without even making a case to the European Commission (EC) to compromise on environmental rules.
The application by Amec’s subsidiary Lewis Wind Power was refused because of the perceived conflict between the development and moorland covered by the EC Birds and Habitats Directives.
When asked if the government had sought guidance from the EC when considering the application, Mr Mather said: “The Scottish Government has not sought guidance from the EC on the Lewis Wind Power application, since the EC has published several guidance documents relating to the implementation of the EC habitats directive.”
Mr Peacock said: “I find this an astonishing admission. This planning application certainly raised important environmental questions, but it was also the biggest economic development project and prospect the islands have had for generations and was fully supported by the council.
“Given the huge economic significance and potential benefits of the proposal, I would have thought any government would have left no stone unturned in seeking a solution to a very challenging situation.”
The government approved the 35-turbine Gordonbush windfarm near Brora, which is close to peat land, but again did not seek EC guidance.
Mr Mather said ministers had taken account of information from Scottish Natural Heritage, the developer and the government’s chief ecological advisor.
Western Isles councillor Donald John MacSween said: “I take a very poor view of this. It’s now obvious that this was a political decision and not one based on planning regulations. The rules are there and if they suit one situation, they should suit the other. This leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air and I am sure the council will pursue the issue.”
8 May 2008
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