August 3, 2011

Giant turbine blades likely to claim lives of migrating geese

By Charlie Cooper, The Independent, 3 August 2011

Plans for two giant wind turbines that threaten to claim the lives of scores of pink-footed geese every year were today given the go-ahead by the High Court despite a legal challenge by local residents at Eagland Hill in Lancashire. The proposed turbines will be located about 5km from Morecambe Bay where a special protection area hosts a range of birds, including pink-footed geese.

The geese travel inland for up to 10km from their roosting sites on the north-west coast to feed on grain and winter cereal crops. They feed in fields adjacent to where the £50m giant turbines will stand, 80 metres high at the hub, with a blade tip height of 125 metres.

A judge heard all sides are agreed there is a risk that geese will collide with the turbines. But the developers, Cornwall Light and Power Company Ltd, were eventually given the go-ahead by a Government planning inspector after agreeing to provide compensatory feeding grounds for the geese.

The anti-turbine Eagland Hill Action Group (EHAG) fought a last-ditch High Court bid to block the scheme, arguing that the inspector, David Pinner, erred in law by failing to reconsider whether an environmental impact assessment was necessary, and failing to conduct an appropriate assessment under EU wild birds and habitats directives.

EHAG also argued there was procedural unfairness because the group had not been invited to take part in the discussion on the compensation proposals for the geese. Today Mr Justice Pelling, sitting as a High Court judge in Manchester, rejected all the grounds of the challenge.

Campaigners had hoped for a successful outcome after plans to build another nine 100-metre tall wind turbines on the borders of Exmoor National Park were thrown out in June, after a five-year battle by local residents. The decision came as a study continued to investigate the potential risk posed by planned offshore wind farms to another rare goose species.

Five barnacle geese have been fitted with electronic tags to track their migratory flight paths, which conservationists fear will cross sites earmarked for large offshore wind farms in the Firth of Forth and off the coast of Norway.

The pink-footed goose is not a native British species, but large numbers of the birds spend the winter here, arriving from breeding grounds in Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland.

The geese arrive in the UK in October, nesting along estuaries on the east and west coast. It is feared that as many as 50 geese a year could collide with the new turbines, which will impinge on their migratory flight paths.

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