The four crofting townships looking to develop community-owned wind farms on their common grazings land near Stornoway are holding two public consultation events in Stornoway Town Hall, all day today and tomorrow (Monday 26 and Tuesday 27).
Sandwick North Street, Melbost and Branahuie, Aignish and Sandwick East and Lower Sandwick have lodged planning applications with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for a total of 21 turbines and representatives from all the townships will be at the event in the Town Hall to share information, answer questions and receive comments.
Other project representatives – including planning and environmental consultants from Aquatera and Western Isles Environmental – will also be there to answer questions and all members of the community are welcome to come along.
The drop-in sessions in the Town Hall will be open from 11am until 8pm.
These public exhibitions are designed to collect information and views about the plans, and these opinions will form part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process.
People who come to the exhibitions can fill in questionnaires, to record their views, and these comments will be taken into account during the planning process.
The plans that are the subject of these public exhibitions are the renewables projects being taken forward by these four townships with the profit from the schemes being reinvested for the good of the wider islands community, along the same lines as the Point and Sandwick Trust which owns three turbine community wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag.
All four have set up new community energy companies to take forward their developments, which will be sited on their common grazings.
Sandwick East is looking to develop 10 turbines, located north of Achmore; Melbost and Branahuie is looking to develop eight on its grazings southwest of Marybank; and Aignish is hoping to develop two turbines, next to Creed Park. Sandwick North Street is looking to develop one turbine which would be near the existing Beinn Ghrideag wind farm, belonging to Point and Sandwick Trust, as that is already on the North Street grazings.
However, the plans have put the townships at odds with landowner the Stornoway Trust, which has given a lease to Lewis Wind Power (French multinational EDF Energy and Wood Group) to develop 36 turbines across the project site known as Stornoway Wind Farm, including on the common grazings of the four townships.
Rhoda Mackenzie, spokesperson for the townships, claimed they had the moral right to develop the land, as it was their common grazings, and representatives from all the townships have accused Stornoway Trust of giving the lease without any prior consultation.
Urging as many as possible to attend, Rhoda Mackenzie said: “It’s really important for people to come along and get an understanding of the project – to visually see what the project is, understand what we’re about, so that they can make an informed decision with all the facts in front of them.
“Don’t listen to the rhetoric. Come along to the exhibition, listen to the experts that are on hand to tell them all about the planning process and the Environmental Impact Assessments, and then they can make an informed decision for themselves.”
Representatives from the crofting townships. From left to right: Angus Campbell from Melbost and Branahuie, Donnie MacDonald from Aignish, Rhoda Mackenzie from Sandwick North Street and Murdo Macleod, Calum Buchanan and Kenny Morrison, all from Sandwick East Street and Lower Sandwick.