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Energy giant's survey inadequate, says naturalist 

Energy giants wanting to string massive pylons through a Highland bird sanctuary based their homework on “scant information,” according to a leading naturalist.

Sir John Lister-Kaye, director of the Aigas field centre at Strathglass, yesterday told the public inquiry into Scottish and Southern Energy’s planned Beauly-Denny transmission line upgrade he was “dismayed” the company had failed to tap into an environmental databank he and his staff had spent 30 years collating.

Pointing to a significantly different account of bird flight-paths, the author said the only logical conclusion he could come to was that “the applicants’ survey was inadequate”.

And he said the results suggested the 30 ecologists hired by SSE were “maybe in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Ailsa Wilson, the advocate acting for the developers, said: “So far as the ecologists in this project are concerned, over a three-year period they’ve carried out hundreds of hours of observations around Ruttle Wood.

“It’s not as though they have sat in their office at a desk, coming to opinions. They have been heavily involved in field survey work to inform the assessment that they carried out.”

Sir John said that, according to his 22 staff, SSE’s hired experts were rarely seen.

“Over the period you refer to we came across Colin Crooke of Highland Ornithology (Ltd), sitting in his observation positions on many occasions. We never came across any of your team,” he said.

“That isn’t to say they weren’t there and that they didn’t do the work, although of course it raises a doubt in our minds.

“And so, when I saw the precognitions come through from the applicants and I saw the very stark differential between the osprey flight patterns on your precognitions and those cited by Highland Ornithology, all my alarm bells rang.”

He added: “With the greatest of respect, my local evidence – had it been asked – would have been well able to shore up your observers’ scant information.”

The Aigas field centre near Beauly, which attracts local schoolchildren and hundreds of adults each year, is home to many rare and protected species including the honey buzzard.

It could be affected by 11 towers each 165ft tall.

Local objectors insist the new line is put under ground between Balblair sub-station and Wester Eskadale but SSE claim it would be prohibitively expensive. The inquiry continues.

The Press and Journal

7 June 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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