RSPB Scotland has made an unusual but significant concession to drop objections for a controversial proposed £225 million windfarm on the flight path for important golden eagles on Lewis.
It signals an unusual move for the conservation body which was a ferocious objector to earlier plans which resulted in the rejection of an enormous large scale windfarm on immediately neighbouring moorland which host a variety of important wild birds species.
The present proposed 42-turbine scheme is very close to the same Barvas Hills nesting and foraging grounds for eagles, but the RSPB says it will back it, provided a few tweaks are made.
The RSPB’s co-operation, if the applicant meets a “few small conditions,” is likely to push major progress for the developers.
The original plans were knocked back on a raft of environment issues. Lewis Wind Power, a joint venture between AMEC and Frech-owned EDF Energy, reprised the renewable energy scheme after the Scottish Government indicated a small area west of Stornoway could be developed.
RSPB says the developer has made considerable efforts to find a suitable site, recognising that the Western Isles are of exceptionally high nature conservation interest.
But due to unresolved concerns about the possible effects of the scheme on golden eagles – a species for which the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA) immediately next to the proposed development is designated – the conservation charity still has some concerns.
In particular the site could lead to the loss of golden eagles through collision or displacement. Black-throated diver, an even rarer UK breeding species, may also be adversely impacted.
A spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: “The exceptional importance of the Western Isles for breeding birds means that any proposals which may threaten them deserve very close scrutiny.
“We have been unable to verify the applicant’s assessment of the impacts of proposals using information in the environmental statement, so we have requested additional information from the developer, but this has not yet been forthcoming.
“It is likely that this concern could be resolved, subject to a detailed examination of the data we require.
“We have indicated that we believe a windfarm could be located here, provided a few of the turbines posing the biggest risk are either relocated or removed, and a thorough reassessment of the remaining impact shows them to be within acceptable limits.”
The spokesman added: “At present RSPB Scotland objects to the proposals, but we hope to be able to reconsider that objection soon in the event of relatively minor changes to layout and a reassessment of the impacts.”