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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Council backs huge wind farm plan
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar voted in favour of the wind farm plans
Plans to build the largest onshore wind farm in Europe have been approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council).

An application by Lewis Wind Power for a 209 turbine wind farm in North Lewis, costing 400m, was passed by 19 votes to eight on Wednesday evening.

It was approved despite more than 4,000 objections.

However, the Scottish Executive must grant planning permission and it could decide to hold a public inquiry.

In addition, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has stated that it is willing to take the matter to Europe if necessary.

The council also approved by 22 votes to 7 an application by Beinn Mhor Power for 130 turbines on the Eishken Estate.

The economy of the Western Isles is in trouble. We are on our knees
Councillor Anne Macdonald
Some councillors accused the authority of ignoring public opinion, but those in favour argued that the social and economic benefits far outweighed the disadvantages.

Local councillor Anne Macdonald said: "The government has given our area a title of outstanding beauty. It is beautiful, but beauty does not put food on the table.

"The economy of the Western Isles is in trouble. We are on our knees.

"Renewable energy can be a vital part of our economy and it is the only sector that offers the prospect of a substantial number of jobs. Let us seize this opportunity and use the resources at our disposal."

The decision continues to be condemned by campaigners.

Iain Macleod of Moorland Against Turbines said he was not surprised at the decision.

'Difficult decision'

He added: "The council's structure plan says they will consult with the communities, but there was no engagement in debate."

David Hodkinson, a director at Lewis Wind Power, said he welcomed the council's decision and said the move would establish the area as Europe's leading centre for renewable energy.

He added: "The scale and sensitivity of the proposal has been reflected in the thoroughness of the Comhairle's appraisal of the scheme, which included a public hearing, held over four days, of arguments put forward by interested parties for and against the development.

Isle of Lewis moor
Opponents fear the project will have a negative impact on local moors

"We are pleased that, in reaching what was clearly a very difficult decision, councillors recognised the significant long-term social and economic contribution the proposal would make to the Western Isles."

Each turbine would be 400ft high and they would be built on three estates - Stornoway, Barvas and Galson.

The construction phase would see the provision of more than 300 full-time equivalent jobs.

Earlier, the council's environmental services committee unanimously approved the development on the condition that 25 turbines were removed, reducing the number from 234 to 209.

This was because some turbines would be too close to surrounding houses and others would have been placed in areas of archaeological value.




SEE ALSO:
Green light for Lewis wind farm
28 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Wind farm 'catastrophic' for isle
18 May 05 |  Scotland
Greenpeace opposes wind farm plan
06 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Plans lodged for major wind farm
01 Nov 04 |  Scotland


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