February 17, 2012

Bernera turbines planning row goes to Scottish Government

Hebrides News, www.hebrides-news.com 17 February 2012

A row over building a crofter’s wind turbines within sight of the famous Callanish Stones will be decided by the Scottish Government.

Historic Scotland opposes the bid to build two modern renewable energy machines on the island of Great Bernera, nearly five miles away across the sea.

The government agency insists they would spoil the “spiritual” landscape used by the ancients for prehistoric religious ceremonies. There are also separate objections over the potential effect on golden eagles and otters.

It says the machines would spoil the panoramic views from the Callanish Stones, which are a huge hit with tourists and are considered by many to have equal importance with Stonehenge.

It says they would have 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.”

A council report highlighted the economic benefit to the Western Isles as jobs would be created in the construction phases in addition to extra indirect spending in local shops. Local electrical technicians would be needed for ongoing maintenance. Annual payments to the community would be invested in improving local amenities.

The planning row was to be put on hold but Western Isles Council has now vetoed its own planning councillors, who wanted more environmental information.

Point councillor Donald John Macsween won overwhelmingly support for his motion to approve the scheme, at the full council on Wednesday night.

Mr Macsween said: “This is a very small development, almost insignificant. We all have a very good idea of the environment where this development will be.”

He believed birds’ flying habits around the area would not “have changed since the original study and there will be no significant changes in the future.”

The applicant Norman Macdonald: “The irony is that it is the dead in Callanish that are against this scheme. There has been not one objection from the living in Callanish.”

He added: “Scottish Natural Heritage (which was concerned about eagles) is the worst landlord we ever had in the Highlands – of they get their way there’ll be nothing left here but eagles, seals and rats.

“Do we really want other World Heritage site like St Kilda which is devoid of people.“

Councillors previous suggested offended sightseers should turn their backs to the turbines and observe the monoliths from a different angle if they really wanted an uninterrupted view.

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 was challenged by Mr Macdonald who believes some of the signatures are false. He says 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. The closest neighbours do not object.

Planning officials said the turbines would be prominent locally when erected on a relatively high ridge on a crofting apportionment by 24 Kirkibost.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/02/17/bernera-turbines-planning-row-goes-to-scottish-government/