A public inquiry into plans to build a large scale wind farm on Eishken Estate got underway this week with both sides of the debate hoping a decision can be reached quickly.
The inquiry, taking place in the Caladh Inn, is expected to last at least seven days and will include evidence from the developer, Beinn Mhor Power, and the environmental agency, John Muir Trust (JMT), who are strongly objecting to the plans.
Owner of the Eishken Estate and the Beinn Mhor Power, Nick Oppenheim believes that the project would boost the local economy and create much needed jobs.
However on the other side of the debate, JMT stress that plans would have a negative impact on tourism given the effect on the view from the Callanish Stones.
Speaking prior to the inquiry, Helen McDade who is Head of Policy at JMT said: “The setting at Callanish 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.”
She also pointed out that according to research by Archaeologist Iain McHardy, the proposed location for the development has a long historical association with the Callanish Stones and that eight turbines would break the skyline on the range of hills known as Cailleach nan Mointeach.
JMT also state that the recent discovery of what could be a kerbed cairn on the site of the development is similar to the Neolithic tomb at the centre of the Callanish Stones and that it is distinctly possible that they were built by the same people at the same time.
Ms McDade continued: “Scotland can easily meet its 50% renewable target by 2020 without encroaching on designated areas of national importance such as this one. 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 and must be left unscathed by industrial development so that it can be fully appreciated by future generations.”
The Beinn Mhor Power wind farm plans have been ongoing for several years with the original application for 133 turbines being reduced to 53 which will be the subject of this week’s inquiry.
However, the developer has also submitted a third application for 16 turbines which was approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in February although with the removal of three turbines.
This third application was seen as a plan B for the developer as it is a subset of the 53 turbines plan, so should they be refused following the Public Inquiry, there would still be potential for some kind of development.
By Michelle Robson
15 May 2008
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