December 22, 2012

RSPB scraps turbine plan on nature reserve

By Jamie Buchan | Published: 22/12/2012 | The Press and Journal |

RSPB Scotland bosses have scrapped controversial plans for a wind turbine at a north-east nature reserve, the Press and Journal can reveal today.

The bird charity came under heavy criticism for its plan to raise a 62ft mast at the Loch of Strathbeg, a haven for tens of thousands of birds on the coast between Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

It was hoped the small-scale green energy scheme would help slash the site’s carbon footprint and help generate funds for future developments.

The charity announced last night it had decided to ditch the project after mounting opposition from individuals and agencies, including the Ministry of Defence.

Military chiefs had called for the scheme to be thrown out, claiming it would cause interference on radar equipment at RAF Buchan, posing a risk to national security.

The MoD has made similar objections to dozens of other turbine projects in the north-east. The National Air Traffic Service (Nats) had also condemned the scheme, arguing it could potentially interfere with radar at Prestwick Airport.

Residents living near the Loch of Strathbeg had also opposed the scheme, claiming it would pose an unacceptable risk to birds flying in and out of the reserve.

RSPB Scotland has acknowledged there would be a risk, albeit a small one – affecting about one bird every three years. The charity also faced accusations of hypocrisy after calling for other Buchan wind turbine schemes to be scrapped.

Simon Busuttil, the charity’s east coast reserves manager, said last night: “We can confirm that we have withdrawn our plans for a wind turbine at Loch of Strathbeg due to objections from the Ministry of Defence.

“Any objections to our plans only became apparent once they were in the public arena.” He added: “The site we had chosen at Loch of Strathbeg was considered ideal for a domestic turbine of just 19 metres (62ft) – lower than the nearest tree height – because it would have minimal impact on the wildlife we work every day to protect.”

He said the charity would now consider alternative green energy projects for the area.

“As Europe’s largest environmental charity, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint,” he said. “We will continue to develop alternative energy solutions wherever possible to help protect nature and wildlife for future generations.”

The plan was originally announced just days after US property developer Donald Trump dubbed the RSPB the “Royal Society for Killing Birds” after it withdrew its opposition to the proposed £230million, 11-turbine European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay.

Site manager Richard Humpidge told the P&J earlier this month that four locations around the reserve had been considered.

The spot the charity had settled on was picked because it had the least impact on birds – although it was the most likely to cause problems for the MoD.

Aberdeenshire Council planners received 23 letters and e-mails from residents opposing the scheme.

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