The Scottish Government energy consents unit has agreed to extend the consultation deadline for the proposed Stornoway Wind Farm to March 4th in response to a plea from the Stornoway Community Council to allow local residents to have their say.
The Community Council, supported by two other community councils, last week wrote to all Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillors asking them to accept the Government's invitation to hold a public local inquiry into the wind farm but their appeals were rejected without a vote being taken by the Comhairle.
However, the following day the Scottish Government contacted the Community Council and informed them the Government had decided to extend the formal consultation till March 4th to allow them to make a submission of their own. The invitation to submit views has also been extended to other community councils and to interested locals.
The proposed Stornoway wind farm is being developed by energy giant EDF under the name of Lewis Wind Power. It is believed the 33 turbines, most of which would be up to 180 metres tall, would be the largest turbines situated close to a major town in the UK and would be visible from around 12km out to sea on the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry route.
A spokesperson for Stornoway Community Council said: “We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for extending the consultation deadline to allow local people to have their say. There was a lot of new information in the planning documents that went to the Council last week, including the critical report from the Comhairle’s own landscape consultant, which we do not believe local people have had a chance to see or to digest properly. “That is why we asked the Comhairle to request a public local inquiry, so that this information can be considered properly and to see if there can be any mitigation for the negative impacts that the report identified the proposal would have upon Stornoway.
“For example, in the planning papers that went to councillors, the Comhairle’s own landscape consultant said that, ‘In terms of landscape effects associated with the proposal, a key concern is the proximity of the proposed development to Stornoway and the significant adverse effects likely to arise on the appreciation of the town and its intimately scaled and richly diverse landscape setting from the sea.’
“The landscape consultant also said: ‘Some of the night time visualisations display a complex image more akin to oil refinery lighting due to the 4 lights affixed to each turbine in locations where a greater vertical extent of the turbines is visible (for example, Viewpoints N3 and N7 from the A859 and A857).’
“Scottish Natural Heritage also voiced concerns, saying that, ‘There would be some significant adverse landscape and visual impacts on the setting of Stornoway’.
“Given these striking comments, we think that a local public inquiry to go into these issues in more detail is certainly called for. Most people in Stornoway are unaware of these comments and find it hard to visualise what a big wind farm with such large turbines will look like so close to Stornoway. We need to have an informed and open discussion so that people can express their considered views. Such a dramatic change to the environs of Stornoway should not be waved through without proper discussion and informed input from the town’s residents.
“We are grateful to have received support for our call for an inquiry from a few of the Stornoway councillors. We also very much welcomed the support of Sandwick Community Council, who also emailed all the councillors, urging them to say yes to a public inquiry.
“Sharing our concerns, Sandwick Community Council told councillors this was ‘singularly the biggest decision’ they would make, adding: ‘This will determine the landscape on the outskirts of Stornoway and be visible from most of the Isle of Lewis, for the remainder of our lives. The offer by the Scottish Government for a public inquiry should be accepted in the view of Sandwick Community Council. The communities within the Sandwick area have various views on the proposal, views which can only be answered with a public inquiry.’
Sandwick Community Council also said: “This is a decision which will be the legacy of all the councillors making this vote. No matter what else is achieved collectively by the council and councillors this will be remembered for decades. To offer and hold a public inquiry will allow all stake holders (the local communities) to question and see transparency in the due diligence carried out by CNES to proceed or not proceed with the proposal.”
Had the Comhairle listened to the pleas of the community councils, that would certainly have resulted in a public inquiry being granted by the Scottish Government under the planning rules. However, Scottish Ministers still have discretion to hold such an inquiry even if the Comhairle has not asked for it and Stornoway Community Council hope local residents will contact them with their views so that these views can be passed on to the Government’s Consents Unit.
Scottish Government | http://www.energyconsents.scot