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'Largest' wind farm plan rejected

21 April 08 12:14 GMT

Plans to construct one of Europe's largest onshore wind farms has been refused by the Scottish Government.

It said Lewis Wind Power's (LWP) 181-turbines for Lewis on the Western Isles did not comply with European law protecting sensitive environments.

The scheme had the backing of the local authority and business, but attracted almost 11,000 objections.

LWP said it was "bitterly disappointed" with the decision and said the farm would have created hundreds of jobs.

Scottish ministers decided the project 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 said the government was committed to helping the renewable energy sector in the Western Isles.

He said: "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."

Mr Mather said the decision did not change the government's efforts to harness Scotland's potential of cheap, green power sources.

Local jobs

LWP said it believed it had put together a proposal which reflected the need to protect the environment, new investment for the Western Isles and the generation of electricity.

A fabrication yard at Arnish near Stornoway was one of the employers expected to benefit if the scheme had gone ahead.

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

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