A controversial bid to instal a wind turbine at Buchan’s biggest nature reserve could be thwarted – after an attack from the Ministry of Defence.
Leading charity RSPB Scotland has been heavily criticised for plans to erect a 62ft mast at its Loch of Strathbeg reserve on the coast between Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
The wildlife haven, which is the UK’s biggest dune loch, is home to nearly 300 species of bird and is visited by around a quarter of the world’s entire population of pink-footed geese each year. Charity chiefs hope the turbine will generate renewable energy and help reduce the site’s carbon footprint.
However, turbine campaigners have accused RSPB Scotland of double standards, pointing out that it has, in the past, been critical of other nearby wind energy projects. The scheme now faces a fierce backlash from local residents who fear the mast could maim birds flying in and out of the reserve.
But the biggest obstacle for RSPB Scotland is a formal objection from the Ministry of Defence, which argues that the mast could pose a risk to national security.
Officials say the turbine could have a “detrimental effect” on equipment at the RAF Buchan surveillance base, creating false aircraft readings on radars.
Similarly strongly-worded objections have been lodged by the MoD against dozens more green energy plans across the region.
Local councillors say they have been left with little choice but to reject any scheme that could have a harmful effect on the MoD’s abilities to monitor the skies.
A spokeswoman for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the MoD’s property arm, said: “The probability of the radar detecting aircraft flying over or in the vicinity of the turbine would be reduced and the RAF would be unable to provide a full air surveillance service in the area of the proposed development.”
Aberdeenshire Council planners have received 23 letters and e-mails from residents opposing the scheme. Julie Pickering, whose home at Starnafin Road, Crimond, overlooks the earmarked site, said: “Myself and my husband are members of the RSPB and we cannot believe they want to do something like this.
“We were originally told last summer that the turbine would be away from our home, behind the visitor centre. But the plan has been changed and it is going to be right opposite our property.”
She added: “I would describe this mast as a bacon slicer because that’s the effect it is going to have on low-flying birds.”
The Loch of Strathbeg management – who have objected to several nearby wind turbine projects on the edge of the reserve – says great care has been taken to ensure the turbine tower will not significantly affect birds.
But an ornithology report, submitted by RSPB Scotland in support of its planning application, states that a small number of pink-footed geese and whooper swans will be at risk of collision.
The report claims: “It is possible to conclude that the turbine development is unlikely to have a significant impact on the qualifying species of Loch of Strathbeg SPA (special protection area).”
An RSPB Scotland spokesman said: “The primary objective of the reserve remains nature conservation and the turbine will be managed in a manner that ensures unacceptable risks to birds and bats are minimised.”