The Eishken Windfarm has been approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, without debate and by rubberstamp. What is really shocking is the so-called community element in the proposals, which have been swallowed by our local authority without question.
The few hundred souls in the Lochs area are expected to cough up some twenty-five million pounds in order to benefit from the turbines, allocated to them. It was not a free gift, it will require that mind-boggling sum. How on earth an economically fragile area like Lochs is going to generate that amount of capital defies even my rich imagination.
It is one thing that the developer has wreathed this aspect in mist until quite recently. It is a dereliction of duty on the part of our elected representatives for not questioning or properly scrutinise the proposals on at least that aspect. As I feared, the planning application was passed on the nod, as the Comhairle has this fixation with shore-based windfarms, dating back to 2004. They will have their windfarm, even if it means financial ruin for their own constituents. At this time of economic recession, any promise of jobs, however meagre, will act as a lure for the unsuspecting local authority. It is breathtaking that the Comhairle has fallen for it. They have even gone so far as to request an upgrade to the interconnector (the subsea electricity cable) to the mainland. The way our local authority has handled the planning process should be the object of censure. The developer kept changing and changing the proposals, reacting to objections. No fewer than four versions of the planning application were rubberstamped by the local authority. It should have scuttled the entire project before now.
There are a few points left at which this whole project could be jettisoned. The Scottish Government is to give final approval. The windfarm can only be built if the Beauly to Denny electricity transmission link is upgraded, which is far from certain due to fierce opposition in the Highlands. The same applies to the link between Dundonnell and Beauly.
Not since the resolution of the crisis in the Western Isles Health Board in 2007 has the Arnish Lighthouse blog expressed its dismay at a local issue in such strong terms. But should the Eishken Windfarm ever come to be built, it can safely be said that the Comhairle has sold us down the river.