They are one of the finest examples of standing stones in the country, attracting more than 40,000 visitors a year.
But a row has erupted over the siting of two wind farms near the 5000-year-old Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis.
A wind farm currently being built can clearly be seen from the world-famous standing stones – but a much smaller project by an island crofter was refused permission by Scottish Ministers because it was visible from the tourist spot.
Developer Norman Macdonald’s plan for two turbines of 73 yards to the tip of the highest blade was turned down despite only the blades, and not the actual towers, being in view from Callanish as the site at Kirkibost at Great Bernera is partially obscured by an island in Loch Roag.
However, east of the ancient stones another wind farm of six turbines is currently going up at Pentland Road. Some of its towers can already be seen, as well as blades that extend to 126 yards.
Historic Scotland has admitted that the larger turbines being built by Devon-based Pentland Road Windfarm Ltd are also in sight of the stones, often referred to as the second Stonehenge, but said it did not object because they were further away.
Mr Macdonald is furious at differing rules for the two projects.
Council officials initially claimed a 5km buffer zone existed around the stones, but his scheme eventually won support from councillors, only to be unexpectedly called in by Scottish ministers and refused.
“Why did the council planning officer recommend refusal of my plan, citing an alleged 5km buffer, zone when they had already given permission for turbines visible from the Callanish Stones? Something is wrong with a system that does that to a small-scale application which one councillor described as insignificant,” he said.
Mr Macdonald’s consultant established the local development plan makes no mention of Callanish buffer zones. It also found that principal objector Historic Scotland declined to mention any need for buffer zones when the plan was drafted.
Planning authority Western Isles Council confirmed it was in favour of the Great Bernera turbines, but insisted it had no evidence to suggest the Scottish Government “call in” was not competent.
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland agreed it did not object to the larger Pentland Road wind farm back in 2002. It did not consider the wind farm would have a significantly adverse impact on the setting of the Callanish Standing Stones.
Views from Callanish in that direction are already affected by “modern development”, she said. A nearby mobile phone mast at Tolsta Chaolais, radio antennas at Uig on the west coast and a 600ft TV mast at Achmore all overlook the ancient stones.
She concluded: “The proposed turbines at Kirkibost, on the other hand, would have been much closer to Callanish and their visual impact more pronounced.”
However, Mr Macdonald and his consultants say the Reporter was fully aware that the actual towers would be hidden behind Kearstay island.
Mr Macdonald has a rare direct connection from Great Bernera to the local grid guaranteed until September 2015. With consents in place, he could start generating for the local grid immediately.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Scottish ministers’ decision in this case was based on the proposal having the potential to seriously compromise the setting of Callanish Stones and the landscape, together with the damaging effect on the experience of tourists and the net disadvantage to the local community.”
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