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David verus Goliath at wind farm inquiry

A “David and Goliath” struggle between islanders and the might of a powerful developer was played out during a public inquiry into the huge Eishken wind farm plans for Lewis.

Effectively a test case, the 53 giant turbine wind farm raises serious alarm of a widespread national magnitude as over half of it, including 20 miles of wide access roads and 5 large quarries borrow pits, would be spread over the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist national scenic area (NSA).

If successful, it would permit for the first time, the destruction of NSAs, designated for their exceptional character, scenery and beauty, for wind farm industrial developments.

This week SNH insisted that NSAs held “unsurpassed attractiveness which must be conserved as part of our national heritage.”

A local survey indicated that 87% of neighbouring Kinloch villagers who responded were opposed to the development.

The raft of islanders who are fighting the threatened onslaught of turbines against the will of the people choose Catriòna Campbell, the chairperson of protest body Mòintech Gun Mhuileann (MWT).

Despite the overwhelming chorus of protests on Lewis against the enormous windfarms the only Western Isles Council employees to speak openly are Ms Campbell and Colin Maclean a teacher at Shawbost. Others claim they have been silenced by the council which desperately wants the outside developers and their millions of pounds of compensation benefit.

As a concession, a special late session was convened on Thursday to allow Ms Campbell to race to the Caladh Hotel in Stornoway where the inquiry is taking place.

After the school bell the Gaelic teacher at Barvas primary school tidied away crayons and classroom clutter before rushing across the Barvas moor – the site of MWT’s first victory where multinational Lewis Windpower was last month refused planning permission to build the world’s largest wind farm.

Ms Campbell was quizzed by the very expensive and formidable Marcus Trinnick, one the UK’s top solicitors on renewable energy and a leading advocate of wind power who has been secured by developer Nick Oppenheim to fight his case.

While the developer earlier presented two economic expert witnesses sitting side-by-side to present his case together, such help was forbidden to MWT.

Mr Trinnick sharply objected to her clarifying a point with a colleague and she was told she was on her own during the two and a half hour session.

Ms Campbell also volleyed questions from solicitor Alex Macritchie from Western Isles Council as well as ploughing through some confusion from Lochs councillor Annie Macdonald.

Mr Macritchie queried the accountability and strength of support of MWT

Ms Campbell referred to “the number of objection letters to the Scottish Government against this (Eishken) and the North Lewis proposal – and the result of various ballots and polls. It gives us the confidence to keep going.”

She stressed that giant windfarm opponents “looked to us to give them a voice. Many said they were very disappointed that the council is not giving them a voice.”

Hebrides News

16 May 2008

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Mòinteach gun Mhuileann – Moorland without Turbines: www.mwtlewis.org.uk