Hundreds of residents have called for a public inquiry into a wind farm that would see some of the biggest turbines ever built in the UK sited near the town of Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.
The islanders were responding to a plea by Stornoway Community Council to get in touch with their views on the proposed Stornoway Wind Farm, which is being developed by EDF Energy and Wood Group as ‘Lewis Wind Power’.
The community council would like to thank all those people who took the time to write in with their views on the planning application. The community council, in its capacity as a statutory consultee on planning matters, included all these views in its official response on the plans to the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit – a response that can now be viewed online, at https://www.energyconsents.scot/ApplicationDetails.aspx?cr=ECU00001850&T=3
It is now calling on all the Parliamentary candidates for the Western Isles to familiarise themselves with this issue – if they are not already – and make it clear how they intend to support the community council and the people of Stornoway in their objections to the project and in their call for the Scottish Government to hold a public local inquiry into it.
The community council had sought the views of residents after learning of the planning application at the 11th hour from a news story in the Scotsman newspaper group. It emerged that the application was about to come before Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s planning board for a view and that the Comhairle intended to advise Scottish Government there was “no public interest” in a public local inquiry being held into the application.
An image of how the proposed wind farm will look from Newmarket near Stornowa An image of how the proposed wind farm will look from Newmarket near Stornowa
The planning application, which was being handled by Scottish Government under Section 36 of the Electricity Act due to its size, proposes 33 turbines at heights of up to 180 metres across the Pentland moor from near the Harris road to near Newmarket.
After making its public call for views, and sharing some images of what the development will look like, the community council received more than 70 emails from islanders, with all but one being clearly opposed to the development and calling for a public local inquiry.
The community council had also run a public Survey Monkey poll on the issue, to gauge what proportion of the public was in favour of such an inquiry.
It asked: “The Scottish Government has asked Stornoway Community Council for views on the proposed Stornoway Wind Farm – including whether, for example, there should be a public local inquiry into the impacts of the Stornoway Wind Farm on the environs of Stornoway. Do you support such an inquiry?”
The Survey Monkey poll
The poll ran over four days. There were 215 responses – 172 (80 per cent) answered yes; 43 (20 per cent) answered no.
A spokeswoman for Stornoway Community Council said: “We would like to thank, most sincerely, all those who took the time to make their views known to us. It was clear to us that there is a lot of strength of feeling on this issue – but it was also clear that many people had no idea that this wind farm is in the offing. Quite a number believed the whole issue of wind turbines had ‘gone away’ after the big plan for the Barvas moor was defeated, but of course that is not the case. A total of 36 turbines are already consented for Stornoway Wind Farm and if this planning application is approved, the turbines in that scheme will get even bigger.
“With so many residents wanting a public local inquiry into the issue, we now call on all the Western Isles candidates for the Parliamentary election to make it clear how they intend to support the people of Stornoway on this issue.”
In its consultation response, a spokeswoman for Stornoway Community Council said: “Stornoway Community Council objects to this application and calls on Scottish Government to hold a public local inquiry into the application.”
The spokeswoman said there were “numerous grounds” for the objection and listed them fully in the consultation document.
Under the heading ‘public opinion’, the community council said: “The development is too large – both in number of turbines and the height of them – and too close to the town of Stornoway. It is disproportionate and inappropriate and would turn our beautiful low-lying maritime landscape into an industrialised landscape.
“Responses from the public included the comments that the proposed development would ‘create a massive and intrusive visual impact to an extent which will be seriously harmful to health and the people's enjoyment of their own homeland’ (objector 57); ‘be positioned far too close to Stornoway and be visually terrible for residents and tourism’ and transform the ‘lovely setting of Stornoway… into an industrialised Orwellian nightmare’ (objector 54). Another (objector 37) said: ‘I seriously worry that this is another stupid attempt to industrialise this island therefore I object to this and want to see a public enquiry.’’
The community council also said in its consultation response: “There are many significant reasons to object to the application and many of these are detailed in the local authority’s own planning report into the Environmental Impact Assessment. We feel the decision taken within the Comhairle, to support this development, could easily have gone a different way and are concerned that the Comhairle is fundamentally so in favour of the project that it may not have arrived at a truly balanced view. Previously, the Comhairle approved a big wind farm for another site which was in breach of the Scottish Government advice that wind farms be 2km from housing and councillors are believed to have taken that against the advice of planning officers. This case adds to our concern that a truly balanced view may not been taken on this Stornoway Wind Farm application – and why the matter must be considered by a public local inquiry.”
The consultation response is the 56th consultation response listed in the documents relating to the planning application on the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit website. It can be found by putting ‘Stornoway Wind Farm’ into the ‘search’ then ‘simple search’ fields and selecting the planning application numbered ECU00001850.
Stornoway Community Council | http://www.stornwaycommunitycouncil.com