The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has formally objected to proposals by a “green electricity” company to build four 120 metre tall wind turbines on the Somerset Levels.
It fears bird strike and disturbance on an important flight path between internationally important wetlands, and has called on Sedgemoor District Council to delay determining the planning application until the results of a second radar-based bird survey, which Ecotricity has agreed to undertake, are known.
The turbines are proposed for Poplar Farm, Puriton Road, West Huntspill.
In a letter to the council Richard Archer, the RSPB’s Somerset & Severn Estuary Conservation Officer, said the site was within the broad flight corridor for birds moving between the Severn Estuary and Somerset Levels and Moors – protected wetlands of international importance for ducks, swans and wading birds in spring, winter and autumn migrations.
He said: “The survey work carried out by Ecotricity to understand bird movement over the site has followed standard methodologies. However a significant amount of the work was carried out during very cold weather and is unlikely to have provided sufficient data on regular bird movement between the two Special Protected Areas.
“Ecotricity have agreed with Natural England, Somerset Wildlife Trust and the RSPB to carry out a further, radar-based study from the site over the winter period of 2010/11 in order to provide a better understanding of waterbird movement in the area, including nocturnal periods. Incidentally EDF have also agreed to carry out a radar-based study at Withy Farm.
“We were not aware that Ecotricity were intending to submit a plan to your council at this stage given the agreed need for a further bird survey, which all parties, including the RSPB feel is essential.”
He called for a delay in determining the application and said, without more information, the charity must object.
Mike Cheshire, spokesman for Stroud-based Ecotricity, said: “Having carried out over a full year’s worth of bird surveys, we are confident that the site is a suitable one for a wind park. We have been working with RSPB and Natural England who have seen all the data collected to date, and we’ve agreed to complete some further assessments on wider bird movements to give them added comfort when making their final consideration.
“As with many things in the UK at the moment, the radar system used is being affected by the severe weather so, after speaking with RSPB and Natural England, the work will be delayed until January. We were aware that RSPB intended to place this holding objection in the meantime, which will be reviewed once they have seen the newly collected data.”
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