Saturday, 23 February 2008

Eishken Windfarm

This is the second major windfarm proposal on Lewis, and the metaphorical waters have been muddied severely in its case.

Beinn Mhor Power, the developers, initially submitted a planning application for 133 turbines on the Eishken hills. Following consultation, BMP agreed to slash the numbers to 53.

BMP subsequently submitted a proposal for 16 turbines, generating just under 50MW of power, as a subset of the larger project. The figure of 50MW of output is significant, as this means that Western Isles Council has the final say, not the Scottish Government as in the case of the North Lewis Windfarm.

Planning officials recommended the plans be reduced further by 3, and this was finally approved by Western Isles Council last Thursday. The proposal, under new legislation, is to go to the Scottish Government for final approval.

The 'piecemeal' approach is seen by some (including your blogger) as a way of sneaking in the large project bit by bit, circumventing the scrutiny of the Scottish Government.

Another added complication is the public inquiry, which is to be held into the whole Eishken Windfarm. There is a likelihood that the project will be commenced irrespective of the inquiry's outcome.

The Eishken Windfarm is seen as a threat to the visual amenity of the Harris Hills, which are part of the North Harris Area of Scenic Interest. They overlook the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road from the tops of the hills on the other side of Loch Seaforth. The importance of this aspect was rubbished by some councillors. As were the claims by conservation body RSPB that the Eishken wind turbines were a threat to the resident population of eagles.

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