Conservation charities have condemned the Scottish Government for awarding planning permission to extend the giant Eishken windfarm in South Lochs, Lewis. The six extra turbines takes the previously approved £200 million scheme up to 39 huge turbines.
RSPB Scotland warns it will harm golden eagles and white-tailed eagles. It says not enough attention is being paid to the cumulative effect of consented and proposed schemes.
Martin Scott, RSPB conservation officer for the Western Isles, said: “The area where the turbines will be built supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and it is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles.
“We need renewable energy developments, including wind farms, to tackle climate change but any developer would be hard pushed to find a worse place in Britain to develop a scheme of this sort.
“We are very disappointed that our recommendations seem to have been ignored and that the development has been driven through without robust data being collected.”
Mr Scott explained: “This area supports around a dozen breeding pairs of golden eagles and we believe that chicks fledged here effectively prop up the Scottish population. This is why we treat any threat to them so seriously.
“We believe that the gradual, incremental, development of windfarms in these areas risk a serious long-term impact on the populations of our largest and most magnificent birds of prey. It is very important that the cumulative impact is taken account of when these schemes are being proposed.”
The John Muir Trust says it would further destroy one of the UK’s best wild land areas and comes before any work has started on the original site.
Helen McDade, head of policy, said: “If developers can come back after the whole planning process, including a Public Local Inquiry, and significantly change their plans with no real scrutiny, before a sod is even turned, then it makes a mockery of the planning process.
“There would appear to be worrying lessons about the Scottish Government and planning policy to be taken from this. The siting of 59 turbines at Dorenell in Moray has also been approved during the festive season, and the Beauly-Denny transmission line is finally limping home with virtually no change from the scheme that was first lodged in 2006.”
Ms McDade said the Public Local Inquiry which examined a version of the Muaitheabhal scheme concluded that ‘the wind farm would have significant adverse effects on scenic qualities for which the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area was designated’
Ms McDade stressed there is no evidence that the redesigned scheme is an improvement with over thirty turbines, taller than the London Eye, visible from Bheinn Mhor within the National Scenic Area.
She said: “It would seem that developers are using the planning process as a game, where they get as much as they can in the first round, then come back again and again.”
She added: “Perhaps it’s time to accept that there is little point to public local inquiries into wind developments when no amount of evidence seems to alter the inevitable decision. Tens of thousands of Scottish citizens have spent hundreds of thousands of hours and pounds bringing forward good evidence to Inquiries.
“Sadly, the results do not suggest this is a fair and democratic process. More than ever, it’s essential that we get a national energy strategy that shows a coherent plan for industrial wind generation while protecting our children’s heritage.”
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