Comhairle Leader writes to Minister over Uist renewable energy

In a recent letter to Philip Dunne MP, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “As you will be aware, the Outer Hebrides and the Uists have an unrivalled wind energy resource and the local community is keen to harness that energy, both to make a contribution to the UK’s green energy targets and to stimulate new economic and social regeneration.

“The Uists are also home to Hebrides Range and to a national air defence radar system.

“Over the past two years a significant number of wind energy projects have been refused, primarily as a result of objections raised by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) citing impacts on Range and air defence radars.

“This has been highly disappointing for the community who have lost out on significant development opportunity.

“Despite that disappointment the community has sought to engage with MOD to identify appropriate development locations and to identify potential radar mitigations.

“Some progress has been made, but overall the process has been frustratingly difficult with the level of engagement from MOD officials leaving much to be desired.

“Earlier in 2015 the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), on behalf of MOD, agreed to form a working group comprised of DIO, QinetiQ (as operators of Hebrides Range), the community, the local development agency and the planning authority in an effort to jointly work through some of these issues.

“Terms of Reference and a remit for the group were requested and agreed by DIO but an initial meeting, despite repeated requests, has still not been set.

“The local participants have even agreed to travel to DIO’s base in Sutton Coldfield in an effort to facilitate an initial meeting.

“It is hugely disappointing, that of today’s date, a meeting has still not been agreed by DIO.

“This approach to local community relationships and community consultation is extremely disappointing and reflects poorly on both DIO and MOD.

“The approach and attitude of DIO is particularly disappointing for a community that has provided a welcome and a home for the MOD over a long number of years and who work closely with QinetiQ to facilitate Range operations.

The community and local organisations remain keen to make progress and to have a positive engagement and working relationship with DIO and MOD.

“DIO have agreed to set up and participate on the proposed working group. Everything that DIO has requested in regard to Terms of Reference, remit, membership, etc. has been agreed.

“It is therefore hugely frustrating that DIO will not provide a meeting date to allow this process to go forward.

“It is disappointing that I have to bring this issue to your attention, but I feel that there is little option given our repeated and failed attempts at securing a meeting date with DIO.

“Can I respectfully request that you and your office instruct DIO to positively participate in the agreed working group and that a date be set without further delay?

“I trust this can be done. I Iook forward to hearing from you and for rapid progress to be made on this critical agenda.”