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26 December 2006
Huge wind farm may threat Hebridean archaeology

The company behind the UK's largest onshore wind farm project, proposed for the Hebridean island of Lewis (Outer Hebrides, Scotland), has unveiled revised plans for the scheme. The reworked proposal comprises 181 wind turbines compared with the 234 which were originally planned. While the overall number of turbines has been reduced, the impact on the archaeology of Lewis may be catastrophic.
     The real problem is not just that the archaeology of Lewis is practically unknown, but the whole of the interior of the island is covered by raised peat bog that can be several metres thick. This was formed since the Bronze age (Callanish before it was excavated was a few stones sticking up through over a metre of bog). So there is likely to be a whole buried prehistoric landscape below the peat, but it is very difficult to detect. Numerous stone circles, burial mounds and cemeteries, settlements and houses, burnt mounds, fields and field boundaries can all be expected. This could be potentially one of the best preserved prehistoric landscapes in the world.
     The threat is very real - its not just a few turbines, but massive foundations needed to anchor them to the rock. Then there are access roads, cabling, all of which will go through the peat to bed rock. The 500m proposed development has been vigorously opposed by conservation groups and anti-wind farm campaigners. So far the main objectors from outside the island have been the RSPB. There is very little evidence that there has been much of an outcry from archaeologists.
     The council backed the plan despite receiving more than 4,000 objections. The developer, Lewis Wind Power, predicts that some 400 jobs would be created during the manufacturing phase, with more once the wind farm is operational. Communities will also receive payments, some of which can be exchanged for a stake in the wind farm.
     
Sources: BritArch Mailing List (December 2006), BBC News (12 December 2006)

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