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Lewis windfarm extension could harm eagles, says RSPB

Eagles could be harmed by wind turbines after a Scottish Government decision to allow an extension of a Lewis windfarm, the RSPB fears.

The scheme, to develop six new wind turbines, would be built in addition to the already consented 33-turbine Muaitheabhal windfarm on the Eisgein Estate, but the conservation group is very concerned about the impact on golden and white-tailed sea eagles.

Each new wind turbine will be among the largest onshore turbines in the UK.

The conservation charity is particularly concerned that not enough attention is being paid to the cumulative effect of consented and proposed schemes.

RSPB conservation officer for the Western Isles Martin Scott said: “The area where the turbines will be built supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and it is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles. We need renewable energydevelopments, including windfarms, to tackle climate change but any developer would be hard pushed to find a worse place in Britain to develop a scheme of this sort. We are very disappointed that our recommendations seem to have been ignored andthat the development has been driven through without robust data being collected.”

Mr Scott added: “This area supports around a dozen breeding pairs of golden eagles and we believe that chicks fledged here effectively prop up the Scottish population. This is why we treat any threat to them so seriously.

“The area also forms the nucleus of the recent expansion of white-tailed eagles in the Western Isles, following similar increases onmull and Skye, and satellite-tagged white- tailed eagles from other Scottish sites have been shown to be drawn into the area to forage over prolonged periods.

“We believe that the gradual, incremental development of windfarms in these areas risks a serious long-term impact on the populations of our largest and most magnificent birds of prey. It is very important that the cumulative impact is taken account of when these schemes are being proposed.

“While we are very disappointed that this scheme has been given the go-ahead, it is vital that a detailed and robust monitoring programme is put in place to ensure that we can improve our knowledge of the way in which eagles react to windfarms.”