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Call for wind turbine rules to protect bats and birds

Scientists at Stirling University are suggesting new national guidelines be drawn up to protect bats and birds from domestic wind turbine developments.

Research by the School of Natural Sciences found wide variations in the planning processes for micro-turbines.

In some council areas, an ecological survey is not required before construction.

The researchers are calling for greater collaboration between ecologists, planners and the renewables industry.

The lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Dr Kirsty Park said: “The potential wildlife impacts of small wind turbines are ranked of lower importance by many planning officials than visual or noise concerns.

“We also found major variations in the planning process between different local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.”

The study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, involved surveys of local authority planners and turbine owners throughout the UK.

Dr Park said: “Micro-turbines are fast becoming a common sight within the UK and elsewhere in Europe and the United States.

“However, in spite of the rapid growth in numbers, there has been little study of their possible impact on wildlife, which could include collisions of birds and bats with the turbines, or disturbance effects.

“This means the evidence-base upon which to establish any guidance relating to siting is very limited. We wanted to look at how this affects the planning process for micro-turbines throughout the UK.”

In the report, the authors also emphasised that further research on the effects of micro-turbines on wildlife was urgently required but said that needed to occur in parallel with the development of guidance on planning.

Responding to the study, Scottish Renewables said they were already working with conservationists to gain an understanding of the impact of turbines.

Jenny Hogan, the organisation’s director of policy, said: “A lot of research and guidance already exists into how birds and bats interact with wind turbines, however, any additional research on domestic-scale turbines is useful.

“Scottish Renewables works closely with Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland, through initiatives like the Scottish Windfarm Birds Steering Group, to gather research evidence, develop guidance and help inform future projects and planning applications.”