North Uist Development Company has released the following statement after the Scottish Government’s decision to refuse planning permission for its proposed community windfarm at Locheport:
North Uist has been dealt a bitter blow this week with the announcement by the Scottish Government that they are refusing planning permission for North Uist Development Company’s wind turbine development at Locheport.
This project, which has taken four years to reach this point, would have delivered a cash benefit to the island in excess of £200,000 annually for 15 years, rising to more than £450,000 in the years after that – a massive injection of funds which could have made an enormous difference to the lives of people in our community.
Unfortunately the MoD belatedly decided to object to the project on the grounds (deemed by almost all those knowledgeable on the subject to be spurious) that wind turbines at the chosen location might cause interference to Range radar systems. This was despite the fact that in 2010 the MoD had assured NUDC that they would have no objection to the project.
The MoD intervention triggered a protracted process, with a public enquiry and a referral to the Scottish Government, the result of which we have this week.
“We feel that the North Uist community has been dealt an extremely bad hand here,” says Robert Fraser, chair of NUDC. “We are now virtually the only community in the islands which is not able to derive community benefit from the great wind resource we have. It is incredibly disappointing for all those who have worked on this project since 2009 when a community-sponsored feasibility study identified our wind resource as our best hope for community regeneration.
“This really is a kick in the teeth for North Uist, which will do nothing to stem population decline in our island, nothing to tackle unemployment and lack of opportunity for our young people and nothing to help make the lives of our older people more comfortable and enjoyable.
“I have to say we feel very let down by the lack of support from the Comhairle which, although it did eventually support our application in a vote of members, has issued a statement following this week’s Scottish Government announcement which makes barely any mention of the loss to the community this decision represents and more or less blames the community and NUDC for the protracted nature of the planning process.
“Coming hard as it does on the heels of the Comhairle’s decision to force us out of the former head teacher’s house in Bayhead and force the closure of the community resource and fledgling business centre we were just beginning to develop there, we do wonder if there is a pattern here and whether such flagrant disregard for the wishes of the community would be the norm if we were 50 miles nearer Stornoway, where most of the councillors’ votes are to be found.
“In terms of where we go from here, the directors of NUDC will be meeting as soon as possible to discuss our options, and we have already been assured by Community Energy Scotland that their resources will continue to be available to us, for which we are grateful. One thing we will certainly want to consider is that the community of North Uist is being denied the opportunity to benefit from its natural resources because of alleged interference with a radar system which is operated by the UK Government. On that basis it is only right that the UK Government compensates North Uist for the loss which we will incur over the next 20 years. Of one thing people can be sure – we exist to facilitate economic and cultural development in North Uist, and we will continue to do that with all possible vigour.”
Additional background information, including the Report to Scottish Government and the Decision Letter, are available to view at the NUDC website www.isleofnorthuist.com