It is a duty of our elected representatives to make decisions on our behalf, sometimes going against public feeling. Our elected representatives have more information than we, as individuals, may have. A council, like Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has established policies to deal with (e.g.) planning applications for windfarms. To just throw those policies to the winds leaves the council, to my mind, with serious questions to answer. But will anyone ever ask those questions?
I am referring to the decision by the CnES planning committee to allow 14 turbines, each standing 126 metres (just over 400 feet) tall, to be built inland from North Tolsta, between Tolsta Glen and Diridean.
- is too close to habitation
- breaks the Western Isles Development plan
- carries significant impacts on landscape, amenity and homes
- endangers golden eagles at its northernmost point
In spite of that, a letter campaign by 53 residents (with only 1 against) was sufficient to sway the decision against all of this. The community was held to be unanimously in favour of the scheme. Councillors also stated that objections from people faraway should not be given much weight.
To my mind, having observed the saga of windfarms on Lewis over the past decade, it wasn’t the popular vote that swayed the planning committee. It was the fact that the scheme and its 42 MW output would provide the electricity needed to make the proposed interconnector to the mainland economically viable. SSE, who have spent this year dragging their feet over the issue, is due to make a decision before the end of December.
As ever, full council is expected to rubberstamp the planning committee’s decision later in the week. Oh, the community benefit will amount to a mouth-watering if not eye-watering £294k per annum.
I have received information regarding the amicable buy-out of the Pairc estate, which was agreed to at a public meeting last Thursday (21st). One line stood out like a sore thumb.
The present Landlord will only consider the amicable purchase of the estate providing he will still benefit from any wind farm development post purchase, as if he was still the Landlord.
There is an interposed lease between PRL (Pairc Renewables Ltd) and SSE regarding the proposed windfarm. The SSE part has been taken over by the neighbouring Eishken Estate. Do not forget, in this context, that the Eishken Estate already has a windfarm (Muaitheabhal) ready to be constructed. They now stand to gain even more, once the Pairc Windfarm is up and running.
The outgoing Landlord will receive the same income from the 26-turbine windfarm as the Pairc Trust, namely £330,000 per annum. In spite of the fact, that (as outlined above) he no longer owns any land. £330,000 is not a small amount of money for you and me, but actually only amounts to £1,000 per person per year. That won’t go awfully far if we’re talking about economic regeneration. Two individuals will become very rich, gaining £8.4m over the 25-year lifespan of the project.
There are currently only 26 windturbines in the planning, but if the community wants more (thereby increasing their revenue), they can get more.
This is all depending on the construction of the interconnector (the sub-sea high-voltage electricity cable to the mainland). I am told informally that this is a done deal.
I feel, very strongly, that the people of Pairc have been sold down the river for a chest of beads and mirrors. How on earth, after all these years of obstruction, divide & rule and non-cooperation from the Landlord, could people acquiesce to such terms?
On Thursday 21st November, a meeting will be held for residents of South Lochs and members of the Pairc Trust to determine whether the community of South Lochs will endorse a voluntary transfer of the Pairc Estate to the Pairc Trust. This would be in the place of the current Part 3 compulsory purchase, against the landlord’s wishes. The asking price is actually higher than under the compulsory purchase, and the difference is expected to be raised from the public purse.
Whilst an amicable transfer would of course be preferable, I am by no means convinced that in this case it is to the benefit of the community. The delaying tactics from the landlord have dragged this saga out since 2004, admittedly serving to show up all the weaknesses in the legislation. A favourable settlement would involve the same asking price, to name but a thing. However, full details on the T&C’s for this agreed transfer will be provided at the meeting.
Our old freight ferry Muirneag sailed from Stornoway on 3 October to reach her new home in Turkey a fortnight later. On approach to Istanbul, she passed the Dardanelles, site of a bloody 9 month battle in 1915 which claimed half a million lives. Twelve of these were of men from the Isle of Lewis. I wish her well in her new life in the Black Sea.
Our new ferry Loch Seaforth is taking shape on a shipyard in Germany, and is expected to take over from the Isle of Lewis in July 2014. On Monday 11th November, the Pier & Harbour Commission will have an open day at the Stornoway ferry terminal for displaying their plans for the new ferry terminal. As the Loch Seaforth is larger than the Isle of Lewis, reclamation works will have to be undertaken to accommodate all the traffic. I’m wondering why this is only now being thought about, 8 months before the new ferry comes into service.
And although the Loch Seaforth is supposed to take the overnight freight runs as well, the relevant report on Hebrides News mentions that the linkspan on Pier #1 is to be refurbished - to take a future freight service. A prudent measure. During the summer, the ferry to Ullapool sails three times a day on Wednesday and Friday, leaving Stornoway at 6.00 am and completing the service at 1.45 am. Leaving just four and a bit hours to do the freight run which takes 8 hours back and forth. Well, I’m sorry, but even in the Outer Hebrides, a day only has 24 hours, not 29.
On 19 September, the replacement for our freight ferry Muirneag, the Clipper Ranger arrived in Stornoway. Today, Saturday 21 September, the Muirneag was taken off charter for Calmac from V-ships and was tied up at the Arnish pier. The Clipper Ranger took over at the same time.
Muirneag has come in for an unfair bit of stick over the years, acquiring the nickname the Olympic Flame (because she never went out). The vessel has brought all our goods to the islands, in all weathers (remember that storm in November 2005, when she ended up 60 miles north of the Butt of Lewis?) and all seasons.
The Clipper Ranger
Muirneag at Arnish
The UK government has announced that renewable energy schemes based on Scottish islands (like the Western Isles) will be given a higher subsidy than its mainland counterparts. This effectively is an incentive to build onshore windfarms in the islands.
This means that the interconnector, the subsea electricity cable taking the power to the mainland, will now be constructed as will the windfarms in Eishken and elsewhere.
This blogger has consistently spoken out against onshore windfarms in these islands. This decision is particularly galling, as the groundswell of public opinion has changed markedly in recent years. An increasing number of onshore windfarms on the mainland have been denied planning permission in the face of mounting public opposition. To my mind, the British government have designated the Scottish islands as the dumping ground for those renewable energy projects (read: windfarms) that nobody else wants, and which are nothing more than paying lipservice to the notion of green energy. Windfarms are inefficient and unreliable sources of energy (the last few days have shown how variable our windspeeds are).
This is a bad decision for our islands, who don’t stand to gain anything like what the development companies will be getting in terms of subsidies and revenue. We’re getting the beads and mirrors whilst our resources are being plundered. I’m not talking about wind energy. Having windturbines around destroys the wilderness aspect that lures so many tourists to these islands. It’s tourism that’s the mainstay of these islands’ economy, stupid. The windfarm in Eishken will yield a few million pounds in community benefit, once Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have worked out how to apply for charitable status for the relevant trust body that is supposed to receive those benefits.
Over the next two years, we’ll see a large fleet of construction vehicles on our roads. Over the next quarter century, the skyline of the Long Island will be marred by a large number of windturbines. Employment prospects for island workers will be low during the construction phase and negligible afterwards. We will not have the benefit of lower electricity prices. We only stand to lose from this announcement.
SSE are holding two information meetings about the subsea electricity cable they are planning to lay across the Minch, between Gravir and Dundonnell. The meetings will be held at the Resource Centre, Ravenspoint, in Kershader (South Lochs) on Thursday 5th September, and at the North Lochs Community Centre in Leurbost the next day, Friday 6th September.
On both days, the meetings are open to the public from 10am until 7.30pm, with SSE staff on hand to explain what their plans will entail.
Please pass this information to anyone who is interested and in a position to attend.
The interconnector is a high-voltage cable for transmitting electricity to the national grid, which has been generated by renewable energy schemes in Lewis. The main one will be the Eishken windfarm, but other schemes (such as the Pentland Road windfarm, as well as tidal and wave power schemes) will also be able to use this cable. It is essential for the renewable energy sector to take off in this part of the Outer Hebrides.
If the interconnector is built, it will require additional electricity infrastructure in Lewis, such as a spur to the switching station at Arnish [by the Creed Bridge], a sub-station at Gravir and high-voltage power lines across the island.
Where emptiness once ruled
The towers now stand
where inertia lay
mills now rotate
The hills stand bemused
at the intruders
in their ancient
A fast roadway is carved
where moorland once lay
in my slow ascent
Two dozen years
they’ll stand there
The wilderness’s gone
reduced to tussocks
beside the roadway
to the windfarm
The two men convicted of the murder of this 16-year old in November 2011 have been sentenced to life in prison, with at least 18 years before they can apply for parole. Justice has been done. I cannot comment further.