Building wind turbines within sight of the famous Callanish Stones may be effectively banned.
The installation of two modern renewable energy machines on the island of Great Bernera, nearly five miles away, should not be permitted as it would spoil the prehistoric landscape says government agency Historic Scotland.
The body’s objection against the energy development planned by crofter Norman Macdonald at Kirkibost, Bernera, carries significant weight because the monoliths are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The Callanish Stones are the top tourist attraction for the Western Isles and nationally are equal in importance to Stonehenge, says a council report.
On Wednesday, the Comhairle’s planning committee deferred its decision for four weeks so it could receive more information about the environmental impact.
But the council’s planning officer recommends refusal so the case may eventually end up in front of the Scottish Government.
The planning application is for two 900kW wind turbines, each 67 metres high, which could power about 1,500 houses, as well as access tracks, a sub-station, an underground electricity cable network, hard standings and temporary construction storage areas.
A petition with 98 signatures opposing the development has been challenged by Mr Macdonald who believes some of the signatures are false. He adds that some objectors have a conflict of interest in regard to other renewable energy proposals in the area while others do not live in the locality. There are individual representations for and against the plans. The closest neighbours do not object.
If it goes ahead the developers would transport the turbines directly to Bernera on a hired vehicle ferry. A temporary slipway on the shore would be constructed to unload the turbine tower, blades and components.
But the site on an apportionment, to the north of number 24 Kirkibost, is a relatively high point within Bernera close to a number of houses and will be prominent within the immediate area.
A planner’s report highlights the building work will create significant investment within the Western Isles and benefit local companies, contractors and their employees on top of indirect spending in local shops. There would be local jobs in their ongoing maintenance. Annual payments to the community would be invested in improving local amenities.
However, Historic Scotland wants the scheme knocked back because it would spoil the panoramic views from the Callanish Stones.
It insists the turbines would break planning policy by having a “significant adverse impact on Calanais’ setting which contributes considerably to its cultural significance.”
It adds that the “Calanais’ setting, extending out to the skyline, is central to its understanding, appreciation and enjoyment, and contributes to its cultural, aesthetic and spiritual values. It forms the centre of a wide prehistoric ritual landscape, incorporating a number of related and often intervisible stone circles, standing stones and natural features.”
There are also objections over the potential effect on golden eagles and otters.
Councillor Peter Carlin hit out at conservationists’ intervention saying the scheme would contribute to the local economy.
He said: “Birds and sightseers are not as important as the people of the islands.”
He suggested that tourists should turn their backs to the turbines and observe the monoliths from a different angle if they really wanted an uninterrupted view.
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