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Scottish Government scuppers Lewis wind farm plan

Island's wetlands spared the turbines

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The Scottish Government has turned down an application to build a 181-turbine wind farm on the Isle of Lewis, the BBC reports.

The decision confirms a report by the BBC's Gaelic news service Radio nan Gaidheal back in January, which predicted a red light for the £500m project, proposed by Lewis Wind Power (LWP).

Although the plan was approved in February 2007 by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) members, who voted 18 to eight in favour, and attracted local business support, 11,000 objections nudged the Scottish Government to decide the scheme "did not comply with European law protecting sensitive environments".

Campaigners had warned of "irreversible damage" to one of the country's "most important wetland sites". Scottish ministers agreed, and declared the farm "would have a serious impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated under the European Commission (EC) Birds Directive and protected under the EC Habitats Directive".

Energy Minister Jim Mather confirmed: "The Lewis Wind Farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds. This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles.

"I strongly believe the vast renewables potential needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion."

LWP, which insisted the development would create more than 400 jobs, described itself as "bitterly disappointed" with the knock-back. It said in a statement: "The local authority and all of Scotland's major business organisations fully recognised the huge benefits that this proposal would have delivered.

"The economic benefits included the creation of around 400 local jobs, 680 jobs across Scotland, during the construction process, as well as providing much needed investment to the Arnish Yard* to make it a global competitor for other projects."

It added: "The wind farm would have contributed 650MW of renewable energy to help the fight against climate change and paved the way for an interconnector to the mainland to encourage more investment in other renewable technologies.

"Sadly all of this has been lost because of the government decision which, we believe, represents a huge missed opportunity."

LWP concluded it would be "considering the Government’s response in detail before deciding on our next move". ®

Bootnote

*In Stornoway, and described as "one of the employers expected to benefit if the scheme had gone ahead".

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