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Vote of support for controversial 702 MW wind farm on Isle of Lewis

Western Isles councillors have voted to support a controversial 702 MW wind farm on the Scottish island of Lewis -- but on condition that the 25 most sensitively sited turbines out of the 234 proposed are removed. The 702 MW project is proposed by Lewis Wind Power, a collaboration between AMEC and nuclear generator British Energy. It has so far proved contentious due to the location of many of the turbines in the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA), home to golden eagles, merlins, black-throated divers, red-throated divers, dunlins and greenshanks. Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Greenpeace object to the plans. The fate of the wind farm application lies with the Scottish Executive, but the local council's support is influential. Approval was granted partly because the wind farm would be large enough to make a transmission link to the Scottish mainland viable, thereby opening up the renewables potential of the Western Isles. It would also aid economic growth, reverse the declining trend in population, and bring road and housing supply improvements. "For these reasons it is considered, critically, that there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature to justify allowing a proposal that would affect the integrity of Special Protection Areas," the council's planning officer advised. The wind turbines would cover only 1% of the Lewis Peatlands designated area. AMEC agrees to the council's demand for the removal of 25 turbines. The company's David Hodkinson says: "We are confident the reduced scheme remains commercially viable and will provide a similar scale of environmental, social and economic benefits to our original proposal." Councillors also voted to support a nearby 133 turbine wind project on North Harris proposed by Eishken Estate and Beinn Mhor. Planners there had recommended the wind farm be refused on the grounds of its effect on the scenic beauty of the area.

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