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Anger at MoD blocking wind turbines on Uist          4/6/13

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is attacking the fragile economy of the Western Isles by imposing a blanket ban against wind turbines, according to the isles' council.

Military radars based in St Kilda are affected by turbines over 50 miles away on Uist as are the air defence radar - one of just six in the UK - based at Clettraval, North Uist, maintains the MoD.

The MoD says they create extra clutter and interference making it more difficult to tell the difference between between individual turbines and planes in addition to reducing the ability to track the unknown aircraft.

Serious concerns were expressed today at Western Isles Council over rise in objections to virtually all planning applications for wind turbines on the Uists.

Bids by community groups and village halls to erect small turbines to raise income for local facilities or to cut their running costs as well as applications by island crofters are often blocked.

At present the MoD wants to stop Scottish Water build a total of 12 turbines at its treatment plants at Market Stance, Benbecula; Stoneybridge, South Uist as well as Lochmaddy and Bayhead on North Uist.

Planning applications for some of the 21.5 metre high machines were debated at the planning committee of Western Isles Council.

Councillors deferred making a decision to see if Scottish Water would launch a test case appeal if its applications were refused planning officials recommend.

Alternatively, some councillors suggested approving the turbines and then wait and see what the MoD does next.

Council leader Angus Campbell said the MoD have an "almost automatic objection to any turbines going up in Uist at all."

He said to have any chance of stopping the objections the council has to approach the MoD top brass and appeal to politicians rather than officials.

He also "encouraged applicants to appeal" against refusal to test the strength of the radar concerns.

Cllr Archie Campbell warned the MoD stance risked "crashing" plans by the North Uist Development Trust to erect two turbines. The profits would be used to fund local initiatives.

Mr Campbell said the island's MP Angus Macneill could help in the fight.

He said the "MP played an important role in talking to Ministers and in getting to the MoD" when the South Uist rocket range was under threat, and believed a repeat effort could assist.

The MoD objection said: "From an operational perspective, we are more likely to object to a turbine if it is in an area where there is already intense turbine proliferation and less likely to object to a turbine if it is in an area where there is little or no turbine development.

"This is because the number of turbines in any given area increases the risk of false returns and of radar desensitisation in that area.

"Our air defence experts comments that we can “only operationally deal with so much turbine development, and these plus other radar line of sight in-planning turbines within concentrated areas are now an unacceptable cumulative impact."