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RSPB attacks green light for Highland wind farm

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has condemned a Scottish Government decision to approve a 33-turbine wind farm by an internationally important wildlife site, claiming it could affect protected species.

Fergus Ewing, the energy minister, yesterday gave the go-ahead to the Strathy North development in Sutherland, proposed by SSE Renewables.

The wind farm, three miles south of the village of Strathy, will generate 75.9MW of electricity, enough to power more than 35,000 homes. It will create up to 100 jobs and deliver more than £3.5 million of community benefit.

Mr Ewing said he has put in place a series of conditions to protect the natural habitats and landscapes as well as local communities. The plan attracted 166 objections and eight letters of support. Highland Council had backed the plan subject to certain conditions.

However, RSPB Scotland objected, as the site is close to the Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve and is bounded on three sides by a special area of conservation and special protection area for birdlife. The charity said the wind farm could affect birds including golden eagle, hen harrier, black-throated and red-throated divers, greenshank and golden plover.

RSPB has also objected to SSE’s plans for a 77-turbine development at Strathy South and a third wind farm, planned by a different developer at Strathy Forest, immediately to the east.

Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said the Strathy North approval was disappointing.

“We believe that a windfarm of this scale, so close to such an important area for wildlife, has the potential to be very harmful.

“It is now critical that the Scottish Government and SSE ensure the impacts of this project are properly monitored.”