Weeks after plans to locate Europe’s biggest wind farm on Lewis were refused, a public inquiry opened on the island yesterday into another controversial wind farm proposal.
Opponents are concerned it would set the prehistoric Callanish standing stones in an industrial landscape.
City financier Nicholas Oppenheim originally wanted to build 133 turbines on his Eishken Estate in Pairc, in the south-east of Lewis but the plans have been scaled down to 53 after representations from environmentalists, including the RSPB who were concerned at the impact on birds of prey such as golden eagles.
However, bodies such as the John Muir Trust (JMT) remain implacably opposed because the turbines, which would each stand 125m in height, would be visible from the circle of 13 standing stones at Callanish. In addition, 30 of them would be located in the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist Scenic Area (NSA).
Mr Oppenheim and his developer Beinn Mhor Power claim their plans would provide enough electricity for 13,000 homes. In addition, the community would get six turbines, which would generate about £1m a year.
Helen McDade, the trust’s head of policy, said yesterday: “Over 20,000 people travelled to see the Callanish last year. The setting is as much part of the experience for visitors as the stones themselves. It is ludicrous that the government would even entertain the idea of marching turbines across such a world-class landscape.”
JMT was convinced the short-term economic benefits from the Eishken proposal were far outweighed by the damage it could do to a world-famous tourist attraction. “Scotland can easily meet its 50% renewable target by 2020 without encroaching on designated areas of national importance such as this one,” she added. “This proposal would degrade both our cultural and our natural heritage and should be rejected in line with stated government policy.
“Callanish is Scotland’s equivalent of Stonehenge.”
14 May 2008
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