Small community development schemes near the Callanish Stones on Lewis risk being effectively banned after the Scottish Government refused to let a crofter erect a couple of small scale wind turbines four miles away.
The planning threat was reported by Hebrides News a year ago and now a “test case” appears to set a precedent.
Despite the wholehearted support of the Comhairle, former fisherman Norman Macdonald’s bid to build two wind generators on his holding on Great Bernera was rejected “in the national interest” because they could spoil the look of the 5,000-year-old monoliths.
Western Isles Council is worried the ruling would prevent any desperately needed development or small turbine within line of sight of the standing stones.
The council is rushing forward an urgent report on the potential impact of the precedent for debated later this month.
A proposed community land buyout in may be hampered from generating vital development income from turbines in Callanish.
Residents may also be blocked from installing household wind machines.
Councillor Angus Morrison fear the ruling risks any development “within 5 km being shot down.”
He added: “There are concerns for future development in the area. Anything within line of sight of the Callanish Stones could be called in (by the Scottish Government).”
Mr Morrison believes planners should be “supportive of such local schemes” rather than placing obstacles in their way.
Backed by Historic Scotland, the Scottish Government threw out Norman Macdonald’s bid to build two wind generators because they would affect the westerly scenic view from Callanish.
However, in the opposite direction, six huge commercial turbines – much taller than the rejected Bernera machines – prominently pierce through the skyline yet raised no concerns from Historic Scotland.
The Callanish Stones which date from about 2600 BC attracts an estimated 70,000 visitors annually and are the top tourist attraction for the Western Isles. Nationally they are equal in importance to Stonehenge, say planners.
Norman Macdonald says only the tip of the blades of his own generators would be seen with their towers hidden by the small island of Kearstay, across Loch Roag.
He accuses the authorities of double standards and feels they are exploiting the underdog as, unlike large wind farm developers, he has no funding to pursue a legal appeal.
The planning application was called in by the Scottish Government “in light of the national interest this proposal raises” because the monoliths are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Wind turbine development proposals are determined on their individual merits, having regard to planning policies and other material considerations.
“The consistent concern in considering proposals with potential to affect the Callanish site has been the impact on the setting of the standing stones.
“It is for Historic Scotland to decide whether an objection is merited in any specific case.
“Scottish Ministers have no powers to review their development decisions. That is a matter for the courts.”
The government has now refused the planning application, maintaining the turbines would spoil the prehistoric landscape.
Its planning reporter, Donald Harris, stated in his findings: “This is not the only possible site for wind turbines, whereas the Callanish Standing Stones are immovable.
“The setting of such a supremely important national monument merits the most careful treatment.”
He said the wide view from the Callanish Stones to the west and south “is so important in complementing the monument, with its wild and unspoilt landscape of sea loch, moorland, rocky hills and distant mountains. The proposal would seriously compromise the quality of this landscape setting.”
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “Historic Scotland did not object to the Pentland Road wind farm when we were consulted by Western Isles Council in September 2002.
“On the basis of the information supplied, we did not consider that the wind farm would have a significantly adverse impact on the setting of the Callanish Standing Stones.
”We have been consulted on a number of wind energy developments to the west of Stornoway and having studied the planning applications including photomontages, have not objected to any of these on the grounds of impacts on the Standing Stones due to the substantial distances involved.
“In addition the views from Callanish in this direction are already affected by modern development.
“The proposed turbines at Kirkibost, on the other hand, would have been much closer to Callanish and their visual impact more pronounced. The differing nature of the setting of the Callanish Standing Stones in terms of the views outwards was a factor emphasised by the Reporter in the recommendation to Ministers.”
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