Crofter says no deal to windfarm deal

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Fears that crofting in Newvalley and Guershader could be ‘obliterated’ if the Stornoway Wind Farm goes ahead have been expressed by the Clerk of a local Grazings Committee.

John Martin, Clerk of Newvalley and Guershader Grazings Committee believes the 36-turbine development will leave their shareholders with no option but to get rid of their sheep.

“The grazing would be decimated,” he said. “If the new turbines go ahead, the parks will be rendered unuseable because of construction and also afterwards a period of time for the ground to heal, who knows how long 
that will take.”

He added: “This township has little pastures as it is. We have two other smaller parks but this is the biggest grazing. People will all have to sell their stocks or put them on the open moor and they have never been hefted for that.”

Mr Martin’s view has been firmly rejected by Factor of Stornoway Trust, Iain Maciver, however, who says the renewable energy project will not only benefit the whole community but could be a huge opportunity for crofters.

He warned, however that if agreements were not reached with grazings committees, the Trust could act ‘in the wider interest of the Estate’ and apply to the Land Court to remove land from crofting.

He said the aim of the current series of meetings was to address any concerns raised about the project.

“The Windfarm will have to address any concerns to ensure no inconvenience, cost or penalties are incurred by any township as a result of the windfarm, that’s why we are meeting with each one individually,” he said.

“It is a huge opportunity, if roads go in, that will be the first time since Stornoway General grazings was set up that crofters have had vehicular access to their grazing. It will allow use of land that has been brutally abandoned since the sheiling was there.”

He said they were aiming to come to agreement with all grazings committees through reasonable negotiation but if that failed, there was another option.

“The Trust has a responsibility to look at the whole Trust and the 11,000 people who live on it,” he said. We have an asset and have to make sure we use that asset.

“If townships feel that their objection is because the price is not right, that’s something we would have to address. If they are objecting for reasons that don’t hold any credence, reasons that can’t be addressed, the Trust can act in the wider interest and apply to the court for resumption.”

Resumption is a legal process by which a landlord can take land out of crofting, but only with approval from the Scottish Land Court.

Even with agreement from all grazings committees, the proposal would still have to be approved by the Land Court.Without consent from all parties, this would mean a much longer and more complicated process

Mr Martin says the Newvalley and Guershader Grazings Committee will not be signing any agreement with the Trust on this matter.

“They are victimising this township,” he said. “We are desperate to keep stock but it is going to be impossible because the grazing is going to be decimated against our will. It is far better for us to have our pasture than a few quid.”

He added: “One small community turbine would be better for us, we would be far happier going down the route of Horshader or Galson.

“They are forcing us to have crofts with no grazings attached, they are clearing the crofters and the sheep for windmills.”

Mr Martin added that there is already an access road going through their grazings to the Pentland Road Windfarm and that they had faced huge problems with gates being left unsecured.

He said: “Sheep are being let out and sheep from other estates are on our grazing. There is someone in the village who has lost 10 sheep.”

Factor Iain Maciver said they were aware of the issues and were trying to come up with a solution through co-operation between all parties.

Mr Maciver said a further round of consultation meetings would be held with grazings committees regarding the Stornoway Wind Farm in the coming weeks where figures for rental agreements would be given.

He added that the project is very much dependent on the construction of the interconnector on which there would hopefully be some major announcements this summer.

For further details of the Stornoway Wind Farm visit www.stornowaywind.com