Wind farms get council approval

PLANS to develop the world's biggest land-based wind farm on the Isle of Lewis have only one last hurdle to clear before winning approval.

Western Isles Council, by a vote of 19-8, with two abstentions, Wednesday night endorsed the 400 million proposal from energy firm Lewis Wind Power to build 209, 400-foot-high turbines on the north end of the island, despite the objections of thousands of residents.

A second wind farm, consisting of 133 turbines on the Eishken Estate, in Lewis's South Lochs area, was also approved by a vote of 22-7. The decision goes against the recommendation of planners who said the project should be rejected as it would disrupt the scenic beauty of the area.

A final decision on both projects rests in the hands of the Scottish Executive.

Opponents to the north island proposal submitted more than 3,000 letters urging the scheme be thrown out, as they believe the turbines will be an eyesore to the flat landscape and will harm the tourist industry. A recent survey by VisitScotland showed that over 24 per cent of visitors would not visit areas with turbines

Wildlife groups, meanwhile, have raised fears that the larger wind farm will have an adverse effect on the island's thriving communities of bird species. The north of the island has the largest area of blanket bog in Europe and is categorised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Lewis Wind Power claimed the north wind farm could help meet more than 6 per cent of the UK government's 2010 renewable energy targets. It also believed it would boost the island's economy and bring around 300 full-time jobs during the construction of the wind farm.

Beinn Mhor Power, set up by Nicholas Oppenheim, owner of Eishken Estate, is backing the plans to build the smaller of the two wind farms on the island.

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