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Wind farm would be ‘catalyst for change’

A planned 53-turbine wind farm in Lewis would be the catalyst for regenerating one of the most disadvantaged areas in the Western Isles, an inquiry was told yesterday.

Six of the turbines have been signed over to the community and will bring in more than £1 million a year. The development will also create up to 100 direct and indirect jobs and could help establish a new sub-sea connector to the mainland.

The £120 million plan by Beinn Mhor Power was originally for 133 turbines at Muaitheabhal but has been reduced to 53, of which 27 would be within a National Scenic Area (NSA).

David Stewart, a planning consultant who is giving evidence on behalf of Beinn Mhor Power, told the inquiry in Stornoway yesterday it was a balancing exercise between national planning guidance and rebuilding the social and economic structure of the islands, not through grant money and national funding exercises, but through a development that had the capacity to create long-lasting change.

He said the major community fund benefits, which are separate from the economic boost from construction, should not be sidelined because they are discretionary.

But Catriona Campbell, a protester against the development, said it was senseless to destroy the NSA to provide green energy: “You violate one green thing to achieve another green thing. In principle, I support renewable energy but I think this scheme is wrong.”

Ms Campbell accepted that building a subsea power cable to Lewis to export energy was nationally important but said it should not be reliant on large wind farms.

The inquiry is due to end next Thursday.

By John Ross

The Scotsman

17 May 2008