A report into the environmental costs associated with the construction of the Braes of Doune windfarm in Stirlingshire has been published.
Local liaison group Friends of the Braes monitored the Special Area of Conservation over the 18 months during which the windfarm was being built.
When it was refused access to the site by construction company Alfred McAlpine, it chartered a helicopter and made an aerial record of some of the activities which worried it.
The report of the findings, called Scandal on the Braes, has just been published.
The wind-power development is close to the River Teith, protected by law as a Special Area of Conservation for rare designated fish species.
Friends of the Braes said straw bales were used in an attempt to intercept run-off of sediment at the site and prevent heavily-silted water from reaching watercourses. The bales failed, they said.
Local politicians were given assurances that there were no significant pollution issues and that sediment levels were light.
The group said this was at odds with the day-to-day experience of those who know the River Teith and its tributaries intimately.
The group then commissioned the report.
Next it asked Stirling University’s Centre for River Restoration Science to assess the quality of the waterways draining the site and test the claim by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency that the effects of the project were insignificant.
The picture it presented was different to that painted by Sepa, the group claimed.
The CRRS findings are included in the group’s report which examines hundreds of documents obtained under FoI rules and critically evaluates the performance of SNH and Sepa.
Local businessman Jamie Muir said: “When SNH recommended the Teith and the burns that fed it for international designation, it praised the careful management of the waterways and nearby land by farmers and land managers which had secured its high-quality habitat.
“Within two years, we have been forced to spend thousands of pounds on independent research to try to protect the SAC from the indifference of its guardians.”
The European Union’s environmental commissioner is investigating a complaint against the UK over alleged breaches of European law concerning the planning procedures under which the Braes of Doune site was consented by the Scottish Executive.
The complainant, retired conservationist John Phillips, said: “No windfarm should ever have been built on the Braes. Not only are they particularly sensitive for their peat habitat but construction was bound to put at risk the rare fish which spawn in the Teith.
“The authorities were deaf to our concerns and it has taken many many months of hard work to amass supporting evidence.
“Sadly, it is now too late for the Braes but we want to make sure that other parts of the country are given the legal protection to which they are entitled.”
Worried that the Scottish Executive had consented the planning application without the necessary consultation process and concerned that the development would cause environmental damage, these and other photographs highlighting environmental concerns were sent to the statutory authorities and local politicians last summer.
Copies of the report have been sent to Allan Wilson, the minister responsible for the planning decision; Sir Ken Collins, chairman of Sepa; Ian Jardine, chief executive of SNH and Keith Yates, chief executive of Stirling Council.
Last night, a spokesman for SNH said that while the organisation had been involved in “moderating” the development, it would not comment on the report until it had time to properly study its contents.
16 March 2007
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