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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Windfarm application approved

The revised planning application for the windfarm on the Eishken Estate, submitted by development consortium Beinn Mhor Power has been approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on Thursday, June 15th. In a meeting of the full council, the scheme was voted through at 15 votes for, 5 against.

The original planning application involved the construction of 133 turbines on the west of the Eishken estate, around the hills of Beinn Mhor and Muaitheabhal. This would also necessitate the construction of 77 km / 48 miles of roads and subsidiary infrastructure. Following objections from SNH and other conservation bodies, concerned about the resident population of eagles and other creatures, Eishken owner Nick Oppenheim decided to scale the project down. There will now only be 53 turbines and 41 km / 26 miles of road. It should be born in mind that the Eishken estate is uninhabited, except for Eishken Lodge, 7 miles southeast of Balallan. Its original inhabitants were cleared out of 36 villages in the 19th century.

Like the proposed North Lewis windfarm, this project is controversial. Kinloch Community council, the district which encompasses Eishken, was in favour, although 130 residents lodged objections against the revised application. As I have explained in earlier posts on the Eishken Windfarm, the residents of Kinloch stand to gain financially by this project. Residents of Kinloch could join the Muaitheabhal trust, the community section of the Eishken project. As things stand at the moment, they have a share in 6 turbines (a substantial reduction from the original figure).

Objections have also been put forward against the original planning application by residents of Loch Seaforth-side, from Ath Linne (on the Lewis/Harris border) to Maraig. The 50 people that live there will have the benefit of the view of 53 turbines whirring away on the hills on the other side of the loch, whilst reaping none of the financial benefits that the Kinloch people get. I recently noticed that the restored Ardvourlie Castle (at Scaladale) has been placed on the market, and its outgoing residents were the most vociferous letter writers in the Stornoway Gazette - against the Eishken windfarm.

The planning application will now go in front of the Scottish Executive, and if my reading of the current political climate is correct, they will rubberstamp this project. Fantastic prospect.

Seaforth Head, 3½ miles southeast of Balallan
Loch Seaforth desecrated, the untouched wilderness of Eishken ruined, the silence of Loch Sgiobacleit broken and the Harris mountains overshadowed by windturbines. At one time there was a plot of land for sale on the Eishken road, about 3 miles out of Balallan. Glad I didn't buy it; whoever bought it will now have his view improved no end.
View down Loch Seaforth from Aline
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 01:15


A depressing post, Arnish, but good for you for bringing the matter to wider attention. I genuinely believe that if these monstously inappropriate schemes are given the go-ahead, something precious will die in the people who live here, especially those whose ancestors were here for generations before them. These schemes will change a lot more than the landscape, and even the proposals themselves have set communities against each other, witness Kinloch and North Harris. But hey, we mustn't worry over that - just remember the monumental and absolutely over-riding importance of Government Targets, and that wind turbines, when they're working, will help save us all from being fried by global warming. It's true...really! I read it in the Daily Mail! This, of course, is irrelevant to the local council, who are in it for the cash. They need cash. They claimed that they would make no money from the (larger AMEC) windfarm, but convenently forgot to mention the £1.5 million business rates they'll receive...hmmm.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

I am so sorry.

mjc from NM,USA

It is a pity that your *concern* didn't extend to actually attending the Council meeting, hearing the arguements, and reading the relevant council papers. Never mind, blind prejudice is easier.

Cllr Angus Nicolson from Stornoway

Having been born and brought up on the island, and having had to leave when I was 18 as there was no way of making a living, (and as as civil engineer who has worked world wide and seen the benefits and downsides of developments) I would be delighted to return to help build or operate the proposed windfarms. It is all very well to say that these proposals 'desecrate" a "wilderness" but remember that this 'wilderness' used to be populated until the people were driven out by economic (or enforced) circumstances. It is surely immoral for anyone to prevent a native people exploiting their natural resources in a sustainable way. Would anyone nowadays feel they could object if the Native Americans somehow managed to resurrect their culture based on a sustainable buffulo hunt? As the islanders have been denied the alternative of a sustainable fishery or agricultural economy by the vagaries of European/UK policy, why should they now be denied the opportunity of exploiting the one renewable resource the hebrides has in abundance? (the climate) Yes the windfarms may seem to be an 'eyesore' (even if to exiles like myself the "wilderness' is a much greater eyesore knowing what it used to sustain) but it is totally reversible. At the end of the economic or practical life of the windfarms they can be removed entirely. This principle is already being applied to north sea oil platforms (which oil companies now accept will be removed even though this was not part of the original design philosophy) . A pragmatic approach to the developments will not only provide a sustainable economic benefit but ensure that there is no residual deficit for future generations. Indeed this approach will act as a catalyst to ensure that future generations have the necessary economic foundation and confidence to ensure that the islands remain in the future a sustainable habit for native Hebrideans rather than a picturesque but unpopulated wilderness. We should learn from the example of another impoverished nation on the edge of Europe (Norway) which has already managed to maximise the benefits to its people of its natural resources. from being an impoverished country in the 1960's Norway now has one one of the highest per capita GDP and lifestyles in the world. We should take a similar long term approach to the wind (and in the future wave) projects, with an attitiude of seeking to maximise benefits to the local people in the long term. How do I, or others, tell my grandchildren that we had the opportunity to provide them with a home and livelihood in the land of their forefathers but decided not to do this as the idea of an unpopulated wilderness seemed a good idea at the time? In conclusion I hope I can use my skills in the very near future building windfarms in Lewis rather than on projects in foriegn climes!!

Alimac from Exile

Cllr Nicolson, with all respect: I reject the accusation of blind prejudice. I have made my reasoned opinion clear in previous posts in the past. I don't ask (as I do not expect) you to agree with me, but a bit of mutual respect in this sort of discussion wouldn't go remiss. Alimac, the previous residents of Eishken all lived on the coastline of the peninsula, not in the interior where the turbines will be built. You are quite right in flagging up Norway as an example of a government which does support its community-on-the-edge in its strongest points: fishery. Don't be fooled into thinking that the Hebrideans themselves are going to benefit a lot from the turbines. If you break it down to a per-capita yield, it's be a pittance in comparison to what the two development companies are going to make over the 25 year lifespan of the project. One landowner stands to become a multi-billionnaire out of this. There are other industries which are viable in the Hebrides, which do not carry such a severe environmental impact. I have previously pleaded for those to be looked at, but it sounds as if Western Isles Council are staring themselves blind at wind energy, whilst paying lipservice to other alternatives.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

Thoughtful comment from Alimac. I really don't know how many Plains Native Americans would want to go back to the past even if they could. I do know however that the casinos - also known half jokingly as the "red man's revenge" on the "white man" -, now an almost invariable feature of Indian territories, have not proven such a boon to most tribes/pueblos, and have had serious deleterious effects on adjacent local economies. Let us hope the future of the WI bears out Alimac's optimism [I certainly would wish him a happy and successful return to Lewis in the near future].

mjc from NM,USA

It is not "totally reversible" - you are forgetting about the many miles of interconnecting roads leading to the turbines and substations. I take your point though that the removal of the turbines themselves would reinstate a more pleasing aspect to the horizon. However, I am totally against this project for many reasons but just imagine if you will, standing on top of Muirneag on a clear day and bearing witness to what can only be described as desecration of a natural wilderness. The Lewis of old will be gone - an industrial landscape will be our new moorland. If you need any convincing, just take a look at Amec's own photo montages on their web site - they are simply horrific! An invasion of metalic aliens.

Windy Miller from Vatisker

I'm dismayed by previous inflammatory comments reportedly made by councillor Nicolson. Even if someone had attended the council meeting, had heard the arguments and had read the relevant council papers - what could or can they do? Stand up in the council debating chamber, voice their objections and ask for answers? I think not. They'd be kicked out the chamber, of course. Until some kind of public referendum is held on Lewis turbines then councillors can back what they want - without fear of appearing to have voted against public opinion. That's why a referendum will never happen. Councillors are elected by you and I. They're in a privileged position because of you and I. They are accountable to you and I. They vote for you and I. And their world can be turned upside down by you and I next May when we again get the chance to decide who's best at representing our interests in local authority elections. You vote, you decide. Meanwhile, whole swathes of the Lewis countryside soon face being planted with monstrously dominating wind turbines. And not just one or two to provide cheap power locally but dozens, even hundreds, so that the energy can be exported off the island via a massive underwater cable to the mainland. Sure there's peace offerings, like pitiful annual pay deals to locals whose landscape has forever been obliterated. But do these pieces of silver truly compensate? The Arnish Lighthouse blog is a brave and commendable attempt at generating debate and informing the public on local issues. It's advantages are that it's more current than newspapers and it's got a potentially vastly wider readership. Long may this blogger throw the odd hand grenade into his postings - otherwise councillors, MSPs and MPs will make decisions on our behalf unchallenged...and that's not in the spirit of democracy. I might be prejudiced, but I'm not blinded by it.

Alan from Glasgow

I was asked to verify the identity of those commenting on the blog - I am unable to do so.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

Quote- 'I was asked to verify the identity of those commenting on the blog - I am unable to do so' - end quote. That's outrageous Arnish, by whom were you asked to do this?

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

Alimac sounds more like a market analyst than an engineer :-) We could also learn from the Germans who, according to a bloke from South Germany cycling through Harris a couple of weeks back, told me that the German turbines (15,000 of them - noticed the world cooling down yet?) are incredibly inefficient and that their government is buying electricity from these windfactories at THREE TIMES the cost of power produced from conventional sources, i.e. coal, a cost which of course will be passed on to the end consumer. He threw his arms up and said "It's just...CRAZY!". I tend to agree. Councillor Nicolson's snappy 'blind prejudice' comment indicates that he, in common with some other councillors, is in possession of a blind spot - a rather large one.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

Good for AL to point out the distribution of projected benefits. When is work supposed to start? My wife mentioned that we have better plan on visiting before its desecration/ruin.

mjc from NM,USA

Oh, Arnish, to help you out , I, mjc, hereby truthfully declare that I am etc. Further information may be had, we hope, via Homeland Security etc etc. [Of course YOU are unable to verify identities - particularly of those using pseudonyms. In fact, you could not certify Clir Angus Nicolson from Stornoway is the one who commented without contacting him by phone, in person etc. ... and why should you?!!]

mjc from NM,USA

Perhaps "Cllr Angus Nicolson" should make his case here rather than suggest people attend the council meeting. The suggestion is that had we attended the meeting we would have understood the decision. If this is the case it should be easy to re-state the arguments that convinced the councillors to support the project.

pondhead from Mull

As a mainlander who loves the islands I would be very saddened to see them turned into industrial looking zones. I probably don't have any right to comment but I just can't help myself. In my humble opinion the only viable option is to make any windfarms community owned. Not only will that mean more money goes direct to the locals but it will also mean that the locals will get more input regarding how many turbines and where they are to be situated etc. Please people don't let big business call the shots, you are blessed with a beautiful landscape which could with good planning and local knowledge support many well placed cash making turbines. Get organised and get together don't let the big guys scare you into hasty, wrong decisions.

Siouxfly from Edinburgh

Turbines! Wind power proposals are underway Which if given approval will change The lifestyle of Lewis islanders Who have lived in peace, harmony, beauty And serenity From living memory To the present day, Three hundred, one hundred metre Diameter propellers would be in Constant motion in the tranquil Hebridean sky, Disturbing the peace, Their top points being One hundred and forty metres high! The majority of the islanders Are against the proposals By a petition signing They have had their say, These eyesores will be visible From over forty five kilometers away! For the resident and migrating birdlife, they will be felled from the sky dead! A terrible scene, As they try to navigate through The enormous multi bladed Slicing machine! Heavy duty transmission lines and Steel pylons would scar the unspoilt view If it is allowed to go ahead, they will be installed There will be very little you can do! Important bird areas, special protection, special areas of conservation, The natural moorlands, massive carbon sinks Would be decimated in large areas ruining forever the local ecology, Regardless of the fact that excess carbon from the air the moorland drinks! It would substantially decrease tourism So important to the local community purse which in its turn would lead many islanders to curse! The developers would be making Quite a stash Ninety million pounds for electricity produced Giving the local council a nine million pound payment once off, In cash! "It would create employment!" The proponents say, The truth is apart from the construction phase Wind farms are run by one man behind a computer today! All in all the proposals Are creating some strain, Another fact is that the islanders Have nothing to gain! Rules, regulations, conservation, Ecology all affected Though no issuing of fines, Please be aware of what is happening and join Moors Without Turbines! Copyright David Nicoll 16:06:06

David from South Africa

I didn't make the comments attributed to me. I have had this problem elsewhere, and it is insolvable. As a supporter of the proposals, I have no problem in speaking my mind, I just do it in a less offensive manner. My real views can be found at If I had AL's email I would send the same apology (for others behaviour) to him.

Cllr Angus Nicolson (the real one) from Stornoway

History! What does natural wilderness Mean to city dwellers? Bedecked in sharp suits Briefcases in hand One could say Smart fella’s What do they know Of the life on the moor? Of rural dwellers Rich in culture Not spiritually poor! To them it is just A waste of space To be used in this Urgent energy race! An ecosystem exists In balance some would say From time immemorial To the present day From the birds in the air To fish in river, loch and sea And the islanders themselves, Will all be affected Detrimentally! What of the peace And unspoilt view? It would seem According to them Who need electricity That it will not Affect these things too much, So the plans must go through. Man in his folly Has made many mistakes, Seemingly well intentioned Although sometimes shortsighted, Only realizing the mistake When something breaks! Some things are repairable Others are not For example Holes in the ozone layer And temperatures Getting hot! To mess with nature Is a big mistake, We all live by her riches But it is give And take, Living in peace Calm and solitude For all to see, If these proposed Massive wind farms Are allowed to go ahead For the Isle of Lewis It will be History! Copyright David Nicoll 2:08:06

David from South Africa

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