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Biggest onshore wind farm plan rejected

Plans for Britain's biggest land-based wind farm were turned down by the Scottish government yesterday, in a landmark decision with wide implications for the future development of renewable energy in the UK. The 181-turbine development on the Hebridean island of Lewis was vetoed by Scottish ministers because it was at odds with tough protection for wildlife sites afforded by European law. The site was designated as the Lewis Peatlands special protection area under the EU's birds directive to protect its rare breeding birds including the golden eagle, merlin, red-throated diver, black-throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank. ..."This is an extremely commendable decision ... that is absolutely right for Scotland," said Stuart Housden, director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland. "It sends a very strong message that in meeting our ambitious and welcome renewable targets, we do not have to sacrifice our most important environmental resources."

Plans for Britain's biggest land-based wind farm were turned down by the Scottish government yesterday, in a landmark decision with wide implications for the future development of renewable energy in the UK.

The 181-turbine development on the Hebridean island of Lewis was vetoed by Scottish ministers because it was at odds with tough protection for wildlife sites afforded by European law.

The site was designated as the Lewis Peatlands special protection area under the EU's birds directive to protect its rare breeding birds including the golden eagle, merlin, red-throated diver, black-throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank.

As the wind farm would have "significant adverse impacts" on the wildlife site and its birds, it was in effect legally impossible to approve, said Jim Mather, the Scottish Energy Minister.

The decision sends a clear signal to developers seeking to take part in the "wind rush" expected as part of the massive expansion of renewable energy signalled by the EU earlier this year.

It means their proposals will have to be in the right place, and they are likely to be refused if they conflict with the two EU... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Plans for Britain's biggest land-based wind farm were turned down by the Scottish government yesterday, in a landmark decision with wide implications for the future development of renewable energy in the UK.

The 181-turbine development on the Hebridean island of Lewis was vetoed by Scottish ministers because it was at odds with tough protection for wildlife sites afforded by European law.

The site was designated as the Lewis Peatlands special protection area under the EU's birds directive to protect its rare breeding birds including the golden eagle, merlin, red-throated diver, black-throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank.

As the wind farm would have "significant adverse impacts" on the wildlife site and its birds, it was in effect legally impossible to approve, said Jim Mather, the Scottish Energy Minister.

The decision sends a clear signal to developers seeking to take part in the "wind rush" expected as part of the massive expansion of renewable energy signalled by the EU earlier this year.

It means their proposals will have to be in the right place, and they are likely to be refused if they conflict with the two EU wildlife laws - the birds directive and the habitats directive - which offer the strongest protection for wildlife sites in Britain.

But Mr Mather emphasised that the verdict on Lewis was not meant to block renewable energy expansion in the Hebrides and the rest of Scotland. "This decision does not mean there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles," he said.

"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. That's why we will urgently carry out work on how to develop renewable energy in the Western Isles, in harmony with its outstanding natural heritage."

He added: "Nor does today's decision alter in any way this government's unwavering commitment to harness Scotland's vast array of potentially cheap, renewable energy sources. Even allowing for [planning] refusals, we are well on the way to meeting our ambitious target to generate 50 per cent of Scotland's electricity from renewables by 2020."

The £500m scheme rejected yesterday, put forward by Lewis Wind Power, a joint venture between the energy giants Amec and British Energy Renewables, was extremely controversial on the island. In outline the biggest land-based wind farm in Europe, it had been slimmed down from a proposal for 234 turbines.

Although in February last year the Council of the Western Isles voted by 18 to 8 for the project - leaving the Scottish government to take the final decision - many people in Lewis felt that even the slimmed-down development would damage the island, despite the community benefits and jobs it would have brought. The Scottish government received 98 support letters - and 10,924 objections.

It would have involved 88 miles of road, eight electrical substations, 19 miles of overhead cables, 137 pylons, 18.3 miles of underground cables, and five rock quarries. Two Labour politicians who supported it, the island's MP, Calum MacDonald, and MSP, Alasdair Morrison, lost their seats, and were ousted by Angus MacNeil and Alasdair Allan respectively, who are both Scottish Nationalists and opponents of the wind farm.

"This is an extremely commendable decision ... that is absolutely right for Scotland," said Stuart Housden, director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland. "It sends a very strong message that in meeting our ambitious and welcome renewable targets, we do not have to sacrifice our most important environmental resources."

But the Council of the Western Isles said it was "deeply disappointed". "The government has got the balance between the environment and the socio-economic benefits of the wind farm completely out of kilter," said its vice- convener, Angus Campbell. Maria McCaffery, British Wind Energy Association's CEO, said: "The six years it took to reach this decision and the £5m spent in the planning process will shake investor and developer confidence. The industry will now have to redouble its efforts to reach our renewable energy targets."

Victories for protesters

*Cumbria

When it was suggested in 2005 that England's largest wind farm might be built in the rolling hills of Whinash, outraged local residents blocked the £55m development. They said the 27 turbines, which would each have been 377ft high, would be a blot on the landscape and damage the area's tourism industry. By 2006, following a six-week planning inquiry, ministers abandoned the project, which could have provided power to 110,000 homes.

*Devon

A planned wind farm in Torridge was rejected by councillors this year because of the feared impact it would have on bats. More than 200 people objected to Ecotrcity's plans for four turbines at the site near Bideford. If allowed, it would have produced 9.2 megawatts of power, bringing Devon closer to its target of 151MW of renewable energy by 2010.

*Cambridgeshire

In 2004, when 16 turbines were proposed between the villages of Boxworth and Connington, residents set up the Stop Cambridge Wind Farm Group. Despite the obvious environmental benefits, campaigners said the wind farm would be an eyesore. The council was quick to make a U-turn in the face of such loud opposition, and a subsequent appeal from the developers, Your Energy Ltd, was also overturned.

 


Source: http://www.independent.co.u...

APR 21 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/14568-biggest-onshore-wind-farm-plan-rejected
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