Monday, 19 December 2005

Geography and History - 4

<![CDATA[ As I promised in part 3 of this series, I'll now touch on the greatest controversy to hit Lewis in recent times. A few of these:

Over the past couple of years, plans started to appear out of the haze for a windfarm development in the Western Isles. Late in 2004, the planning application was lodged with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for 233 windturbines, to be built across the Isle of Lewis. How many? Two hundred and thirty-three. [This is a separate project from the Eishken Windfarm]. Now, Lewis is not a small island, but 233? They are to be built across 50 miles of territory, stretching from Ness all the way down to Bragar, and across down to Stornoway. A simple exercise in arithmatic learns that if built in a straight line, it's one turbine for every 1/5 mile. Now, it's not just any old turbine. The machines that Lewis Windpower wishes to build reach 135 metres, 450 feet, in height.

When a planning application is launched, objections can be raised. Various organisations and individuals did lodge objections.

The RSPB objected on the grounds that it could adversely affect bird populations in the island. After all, Lewis is in the flightpath of migrating birds. This was actually cited as a reason for not granting planning permission for a windpark in Caithness. The RSPB has been attacked for its stance by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Why the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is attacked for standing up for birds is completely beyond me. One argument left me speechless. The windturbines would be beneficial to grouse on the moor. Why? Because their predators would suffer by the presence of the turbines. Groan.

Other objections were raised on the grounds that an important habitat would be destroyed; Lewis is covered in a layer of peat up to 6 m / 20 feet thick. It carries a unique tapistry of animal and plant life.

To be honest: there seems to be a certain element of literal NIMBY attitude about as well. But I wonder. Would anyone want a litany of towers in their backyard that stand up to 4 times as tall as the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse? Has anyone got any idea how HUGE these things are going to be? That they'll be visible from the Scottish mainland, as well as from a large part of the Western Isles island chain?

What has been a recurring theme appears to be councillors voting for the project, whilst their constituents are against. Fierce rows have raged in community council chambers, such as Ness, Airidhantuim, Laxdale and Kinloch. In the first two councils, half the council members have resigned in protest. The councillors on CnES appear not to be representing the views of the people of their wards.

The arguments in favour of the scheme revolve around money. I have seen a presentation in which the

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