A leading ornithologist has raised wildlife concerns about plans for a community scale windfarm on the Black Isle.
The 6.9MW capacity scheme, backed by Black Isle Community Energy (BICE), proposes three 377ft high towers in Millbuie Forest near Mount Eagle.
However Black Isle-based Brian Etheridge, who has been monitoring red kites and ospreys in the forest for 20 years, is concerned that the scheme could impact on nearby red kite, osprey and capercaillie populations.
The forest also includes the endangered Scottish wildcat, of which there are estimated to be less than 300 left, pine marten and red squirrel.
The scheme will go to a public ballot to be decided on March 12 and papers will be sent out to residents in mid February.
A yes vote in the ballot won’t necessarily lead to turbines being erected because the planning application may be refused.
Local campaign group No Black Isle Windfarm recently criticised BICE for using overestimated windspeeds in their financial projections for the scheme. BICE claims the windfarm will bring £500,000 per year to the community.
Mr Etheridge said: “The two chosen locations for the turbines are in close proximity to known traditional nesting sites and pose a direct risk to the movement of adult birds of prey of conservation value as well as the relic population of Capercaillie.
“The turbines will destroy the whole fabric of the forest.”
Martin Sherring of BICE said: “The concensus seems to be there is a fair amount of uncertainty about the impact of turbines on these species and that the best thing is to get as much survey work done as possible and produce an environmental impact assessment that will clarify the likely impact.
“It is a bit premature really to categorically say that this is a problem.”
David Fraser, member of No Black Isle Windfarm, said: “BICE are trying to scare people into voting yes by saying that a commercial developer will step in if we don’t. But we believe the opposite is true. This is the thin end of a wedge and only a no vote can deter commercial developers. The postal ballot is the critical point – if there is a yes vote there will be no going back to the Black Isle as we know it. It will be an open door to development.”
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