Controversial plans to build two giant offshore windfarms which would impact on East Lothian have been thrown into disarray after a court ruled the Scottish Government’s decision to approve them unlawful.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)launched a legal bid to halt four windfarms in total, including Neart na Gaoithe, which had raised concerns of its visual impact on the coast and Inchcape which planned to pipe its energy into a substation in Prestonpans.
The RSPB said the threat to the seabird population from these projects plus Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo, had not been considered properly in the decisions.
And the Court of Session this week agreed and ordered the Scottish Government to reconsider the consents granted to all four projects ime taking into account the concerns of the wildlife charity.
The RSPB said it reluctantly launched the legal challenge after the consent was given despite concerns raised by environmental groups.
In a statement following the decision it said: “Unfortunately, consents were granted when thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from iconic internationally protected wildlife sites like the Bass Rock and the Isle of May were predicted to be killed every year.
“Regrettably, legal action was our only option.”
Neart na Gaoithe, ten miles off the Fife coast, raised concerns at East Lothian Council when it was first considered in 2013.
In a report by council officials, councillors were warned “The impacts will be mainly in the north east, including the resort towns of North Berwick and Dunbar, and along the John Muir Way coastal footpath.
“It is considered that the Environmental Survey has underestimated the significance of the impacts on landscape and visual receptors in East Lothian.
“The seascape and key views will change in character, including the skyline, approaches to coastal towns, and seascape features.
“This will affect the appreciation of the landscape by people including residents, tourists and visitors, and will affect the natural beauty of the area.”
In 2014 planning permission was granted by East Lothian Council for an extension to the substation at Crystal Rig Farm, Dunbar to allow power from the windfarm to be brough onland.
Inchcape also won planning consent to build a substation which would service its windfarm, on part of the Battle of Prestonpans site despite protests from the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust and Coastal Regeneration Alliance.
However, it has always said the sub station would not go ahead until the windfarm project was underway.
Lloyd Austin, Head of Conservation Policy at RSPB Scotland, welcomed the ruling by the Court of Session.
He said: “RSPB Scotland is encouraged by the decisions of the court, which have recognised the huge risks from these four offshore windfarms on Scotland’s internationally important areas for seabirds.
“Although RSPB Scotland’s decision to take legal action was the right one it is very regrettable that such significant time and effort was needed to reverse the decisions which put so much of Scotland’s wildlife at risk.
“RSPB Scotland is now keen to work with all parties to ensure we focus efforts on delivering much needed renewable energy in a way that does not threaten Scotland’s internationally important wildlife.
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