‘Windfarm plan may damage the wildlife it should protect’
The RSPB is objecting to plans for a 31-turbine windfarm in Sutherland, claiming that the development will threaten birds and wildlife in the area.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) wants to build the windfarm at Strathy North, close to the RSPB’s Forsinard Flows nature reserve.
The site is also bounded on three sides by the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area, accolades which recognise the European importance of the area’s habitats and birds.
The RSPB said that the development was a “wasted opportunity” to meet the Scottish Government’s objectives on renewable energy and protect the region’s important habitats and birds.
RSPB regional director George Campbell said: “We are seriously concerned about this proposal. The RSPB supports the development of renewable energy as necessary to combat climate change which threatens so much of our wildlife. But windfarms must be of the right scale and in the right places, not where they damage the very natural environment they are supposed to be protecting.”
Mr Campbell added: “The site is currently occupied by a conifer plantation largely located on deep peat and adjacent to blanket bog. We would like to see much of the plantation returned to its original condition of blanket bog with a smaller-than-proposed part of the site dedicated to renewable energy production. This should allow at least part of Strathy North to become a haven for birds and other wildlife synonymous with the Flow Country. That includes protected species such as greenshank, hen harrier, golden plover, dunlin, and red-throated diver.”
Mr Campbell said: “This proposal was made before the Scottish Government changed its policy on plantation removal. As it stands, the proposal fails to meet the current policies for conservation that the government has set. We urge Highland Council to recommend refusal of this at its meeting on March 15. This would mean that a public inquiry to examine matters in more detail would be held before Scottish ministers make the final decision.”
SSE has also applied to erect 77 turbines at an adjacent site, Strathy South, and the RSPB is also objecting to this application.
A different developer is drawing up plans for a third windfarm, Strathy Forest, immediately to the east.
An SSE spokesman said: “We have recently submitted further environmental information in support of our application to the Scottish Government and reduced our proposal to a 33-turbine wind farm, a reduction of two turbines from the original proposal. This is currently the subject of a consultation process which provides people and organisations with an opportunity to make their views known on the proposal. We have been working closely with statutory consultees, the RSPB, and the local community to address issues raised since we originally announced our plans in 2007. We encourage everyone who has not yet done so to take advantage of the opportunity to express their views to the Scottish Government who will take these into account when determining whether or not to approve the application.”
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