Will these giant turbines deliver for the public good?

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The wind of change, some of it hot air, is upon us.

I have retired to Lewis with my husband, to the village of my forefathers. My mother was born in Tolsta in 1920 and we can trace our roots back to Angus Smith, settling in Tolsta in 1750.

As an outsider visiting this island for the last 65 years, I have witnessed great change, and some of it not always for the better.

I know many people find change difficult and do not welcome it, nor do they want to become involved.

BUT I believe we all need to understand that change will happen, whether it is THRUST UPON US or whether we take control and make the changes we want for the benefit of the whole community.

The secret is to manage change, in a way that will sustain, benefit and enhance this island.

Alarmingly we find ourselves in Tolsta with a new planning application submitted to erect 14 X 140m wind turbines on the Common Grazings land on the moor, west of the village, some of the turbines will be within 1.5km of many village houses.

It was the great Scottish pioneering town planner Sir Patrick Geddes who said ‘planning is not mere place-planning, nor even work planning. If it is to be successful it must be folk-planning’.

We all need to be aware of the scale of these turbines and put a clear physical perspective on the size of the proposed scheme.

1.5km is just one mile more or less – so not very far then!

A 140m turbine base to blade is a towering 455 feet. Yes, they could be that high! And there could be 14 of them!

The Butt lighthouse is 52m high, which is 169 feet. Therefore the turbines will be almost 3 times the height of the Butt lighthouse. Just stop and imagine that.

Big Ben is 96m high, so the turbines will be much taller than 14 Big Bens. St Pauls Cathedral is 111m high, higher than 14 St Pauls then. The London Eye is 120m high, so once again, the proposed turbines will be higher than 14 X the Eye.

We need to understand these proposed turbines are very high and surely will be a ‘blot on the landscape’.

Tolsta has 3 beaches; the Traigh and Garry being the most visited and very beautiful. Isle of Lewis beaches have become known the world over and when people visit they expect to enjoy the expanse and tranquillity of our sands; they certainly won’t want to see and hear, enormous wind turbines rushing around to a constant drone with the wind, plus visually disturbing the panorama before them.

Siting of any wind turbine needs to be deliberately decided by a well-informed island body whose sole responsibility is wind power generation and renewables, for and on behalf of the island.

And whilst turbines generate electricity, we must not forget, many older houses and islanders have no access to a fair and economical means of heating their homes and pay a huge price for the use of electricity through out-dated, storage heaters.

I stood with a group of villagers, beneath the current Tolsta wind turbine at the weekend and it certainly does make a noise.

The issue of noise pollution is another reason to resist 14 giant wind turbines. And whilst developers often insist noise will not be an issue, clearly it will be the case in Tolsta if these plans go ahead.

People move to and visit the island for the peace and quiet, silence and solitude, and whilst there maybe the occasional rural noise, it is a far, far quieter place than most other rural places in the UK.

We must all surely resist this creep of outsider developers making moves to exploit what are our natural resources where the benefits for island economic growth are unclear.

All islanders have full access to all information relating to every proposed large scale development application but they should also be an integral part of what should be an open and honest decision making process.

The planning system in this country is founded on the principle of social equity, equality and delivering public good; will 14 X 455ft wind turbines be delivering for the public good?

Alison Eade

North Tolsta