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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse


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Geography and History - 4

As I promised in part 3 of this series, I'll now touch on the greatest controversy to hit Lewis in recent times. A few of these:



Over the past couple of years, plans started to appear out of the haze for a windfarm development in the Western Isles. Late in 2004, the planning application was lodged with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for 233 windturbines, to be built across the Isle of Lewis. How many? Two hundred and thirty-three. [This is a separate project from the Eishken Windfarm]. Now, Lewis is not a small island, but 233? They are to be built across 50 miles of territory, stretching from Ness all the way down to Bragar, and across down to Stornoway. A simple exercise in arithmatic learns that if built in a straight line, it's one turbine for every 1/5 mile. Now, it's not just any old turbine. The machines that Lewis Windpower wishes to build reach 135 metres, 450 feet, in height.

When a planning application is launched, objections can be raised. Various organisations and individuals did lodge objections.

The RSPB objected on the grounds that it could adversely affect bird populations in the island. After all, Lewis is in the flightpath of migrating birds. This was actually cited as a reason for not granting planning permission for a windpark in Caithness. The RSPB has been attacked for its stance by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Why the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is attacked for standing up for birds is completely beyond me. One argument left me speechless. The windturbines would be beneficial to grouse on the moor. Why? Because their predators would suffer by the presence of the turbines. Groan.

Other objections were raised on the grounds that an important habitat would be destroyed; Lewis is covered in a layer of peat up to 6 m / 20 feet thick. It carries a unique tapistry of animal and plant life.

To be honest: there seems to be a certain element of literal NIMBY attitude about as well. But I wonder. Would anyone want a litany of towers in their backyard that stand up to 4 times as tall as the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse? Has anyone got any idea how HUGE these things are going to be? That they'll be visible from the Scottish mainland, as well as from a large part of the Western Isles island chain?

What has been a recurring theme appears to be councillors voting for the project, whilst their constituents are against. Fierce rows have raged in community council chambers, such as Ness, Airidhantuim, Laxdale and Kinloch. In the first two councils, half the council members have resigned in protest. The councillors on CnES appear not to be representing the views of the people of their wards.

The arguments in favour of the scheme revolve around money. I have seen a presentation in which the £153m trade deficit that the Western Isles carry would be wiped out at a stroke by the income generated by the windfarm. As I wrote in article 3 in this series, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would wallow in money. By the sound of it, they're silly with the idea of practically swimming in it and haven't got a clue what needs doing with all that income.
Another argument is that of employment. It is said that the construction of the towers would take place at the Arnish Fabrication Yard, next to the lighthouse whose name I emulate in this blog. It would generate 400 jobs in the short term. Not just at the yard, but also driving trucks and doing the jobs on the ground. As far as the Arnish Yard is concerned, during a recent project, labour had to be attracted from outside the United Kingdom. Because there was insufficient interest from within the island. Granted, it was for wavegenerators for Portugal. But people would come flocking back out of diaspora to help the economy of their island, as is suggested in a discussion forum on a different website. Oh aye. People want to come back to admire a forest of huge towers? The effects of which on tourism are very uncertain. And tourism is one of the pillars of the island's economy.

In a broader perspective, windfarms are cropping up all over Northern Scotland. Let me make clear that I am not opposed to renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines. But whether they should be placed in locations where the population is not happy to have them is a question of democracy. By the sound of it, the people of Lewis are asserting their democratic rights to be heard. Against a council who is making decisions over their heads. Against a weak Scottish Executive, who is towing the Westminster line on this matter. Against central government which is crashing headfirst into windpower, without giving other forms of renewable energy a chance or even a thought.

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:02

Comments

Can't say I agree with you at all Arnish. From what I can make of it this is a golden opportunity for the local economy, on a site that is - lets face it - a large bleak space. And you know what? We really need to start being bold and dramatic not timid, useless and conservative. I for one am 100% behind the project. How many times have we heard the line: "Let me make clear that I am not opposed to renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines..." Yeah yeah. But then you continue "But whether they should be placed in locations where the population is not happy to have them is a question of democracy." Well quite, we shall indeed see. I suspect that when people see all the facts before them they will back the project.

Donald from Lewis


Glad to hear that the democratic process will determine the eventual outcome. This has actually taken place during Spring 2005, and people were not happy with the proposals put to them. Not even after the cosmetic amendments from Lewis Wind Power. Recent polls in several districts in Lewis still show 85% against. Some drastic and bold alterations of the plans are required before people in the islands will accept them.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway


I have know faith in the democatic process or the planning process either come to that. The communities in the eight areas affected by the development voted overwhelmingly against. The council chose to be deaf to this demonstration of local democracy and ploughed on with plans it has been working on with Amec over the last four years. The local labour MP of 18years admits he lost his seat because he sat on the fence instead of entering the debate. The Scottish executive has received the largest number of complaints about this development since records began. SNH, RSPB and a whole raft of other organisations are against the proposals. Even the councils own planning officer recommended the council reject the proposals for Harris. But still the argument goes on. We are all nimbys can't we see what is happening to the world. Well I reject that argument I am all in favour of proposals that will help climate change. These porposals however will only exacerbate the problem and leave our island desimated to boot. 1/ Millions of tons of co2 absorbing peat will be removed releasing thousands upon thousands of tonns of co2 into the atmosphere. 2/ Huge amounts of co2 will be used in the construction and maufacturing stages. 3/ All the electricity generated will be sent south at a cost of millions of pounds. In the process 1.5% of the energy generated will be lost every 100KMS through heat loss. 4/ The economy of the islands will be severly affected by the loss of tourisim which is currently growing at over 6% a year. 5/ The island will have to import labour as we don't have 350 out of work construction workers. This could lead to boom and bust and will certainly not lead to any sustainable increase in local economic activity. 5/ Many of those myself included who have easily transferable skills may well consider leaving as we appreaciate the beauty of the islands. We certainly will not want to live in an industrial landscape. 6/ The money generated will be carved up by he Stornoway Trust and the Council. These two bodies have made such a hash of presenting the case for the development that they have managed to set community against community and neighbour against neighbour. God knows what will happen when the money arrives. Look, at the end of the day it's not that I am against wind power I think Lewis could easliy be selfsufficient in electricity through this technology. However what is required are small local schemes to power local communities sensitvely located to accomodate not only Lewis and Harris beautiful landscapes but the whole of Scotlands countryside. This development is about two things money and renewable energy targets (which are ineffective and costly). Hands off our island!!!!!

Gavin Woods from Lewis


I have know faith in the democatic process or the planning process either come to that. The communities in the eight areas affected by the development voted overwhelmingly against. The council chose to be deaf to this demonstration of local democracy and ploughed on with plans it has been working on with Amec over the last four years. The local labour MP of 18years admits he lost his seat because he sat on the fence instead of entering the debate. The Scottish executive has received the largest number of complaints about this development since records began. SNH, RSPB and a whole raft of other organisations are against the proposals. Even the councils own planning officer recommended the council reject the proposals for Harris. But still the argument goes on. We are all nimbys can't we see what is happening to the world. Well I reject that argument I am all in favour of proposals that will help climate change. These porposals however will only exacerbate the problem and leave our island desimated to boot. 1/ Millions of tons of co2 absorbing peat will be removed releasing thousands upon thousands of tonns of co2 into the atmosphere. 2/ Huge amounts of co2 will be used in the construction and maufacturing stages. 3/ All the electricity generated will be sent south at a cost of millions of pounds. In the process 1.5% of the energy generated will be lost every 100KMS through heat loss. 4/ The economy of the islands will be severly affected by the loss of tourisim which is currently growing at over 6% a year. 5/ The island will have to import labour as we don't have 350 out of work construction workers. This could lead to boom and bust and will certainly not lead to any sustainable increase in local economic activity. 5/ Many of those myself included who have easily transferable skills may well consider leaving as we appreaciate the beauty of the islands. We certainly will not want to live in an industrial landscape. 6/ The money generated will be carved up by he Stornoway Trust and the Council. These two bodies have made such a hash of presenting the case for the development that they have managed to set community against community and neighbour against neighbour. God knows what will happen when the money arrives. Look, at the end of the day it's not that I am against wind power I think Lewis could easliy be selfsufficient in electricity through this technology. However what is required are small local schemes to power local communities sensitvely located to accomodate not only Lewis and Harris beautiful landscapes but the whole of Scotlands countryside. This development is about two things money and renewable energy targets (which are ineffective and costly). Hands off our island!!!!!

Gavin Woods from Newmarket Isle of Lewis gkwoods@fnes.net


this is rather excentric i would say

george clooney from greater manchester


With respect you wouldn't think so if you lived on this incredibly beautiful island. Look at the diagrams showing scale and numbers then let me remind you we are an island 42 miles off the mainland. Gavin Cheers Gavin

Gavin Woods from Lewis


Industrial landscape it would be. Nice of Amec to put all the pylons required into a separate application, try to push the thing through before the fisheries and waterways report was available to the public, sweep under the carpet problems with our tiny sinking narrow roads not being able to carry the weight of these huge transporters for 5 years constantly (bang goes the quiet sundays and an integral part of the islands character) - and no widening the roads will not do it unless you're gonna re house people in the roadside villages and provide hellicopters to be on stand by incase there is any accident from one of these huge vehicles on any stretch - no equipment to move one of those from across the only road up the island, with peat bogs either side. Let alone the devistation of the ecosystem through the spilling of just one small bag of cement - and they're gonna stop this amount from being carried onto the road on the underside of trucks at the building depots are they?... remember there are no drains along the road - only peat ditches. One huge F**k up all in the name of government targets which scotland has already met 40% of!...now why don't they start putting them on top of all those power hungery buildings in the cities down in England!... would spoil the view maybe????

Helen Alexander from Isle of Lewis


#1: "Donald from Lewis" - do I feel vibes from Western Isles Enterprise here? In any case, one year after posting your message, your assertion that "when people see all the facts before them they will back the project" does not appear to be borne out by the fury of the islanders now, especially those most affected on the west side of Lewis...and still the objections pour in to the Scottish executive...certain bodies in the island have made a first class job of dividing communities.

Muirneag from Isle of Lewis




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