Sea bird colonies threat fear prompts conservation charity to take fight over Scots wind farms to Supreme Court
A conservation charity has applied for permission to go to the highest appeal court in the land to stop a major wind farm development in Scotland which it fears will threaten sea bird colonies.
RSPB Scotland are seeking a Supreme Court appeal of the decision by the Scottish Government to allow four major wind farms in the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay in 2014.
The charity initially won a court victory but it was later overturned, clearing the development and prompting the RSPB to seek a further appeal.
The move is expected to further delay the project.
The decision by the bird charity reignites a long-running legal battle that has ensnared the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe wind farm and three other large offshore wind projects.
The Supreme Court will now consider the RSPB’s request and decide whether to hear the case.
The charity said: “The RSPB has long recognised the urgent need to tackle climate change and the key role that renewable energy has in reducing emissions. That is why RSPB Scotland has worked with the Firth of Forth offshore wind developers and Scottish Ministers for almost 10 years to try and help offshore wind progress in a manner that minimises impacts on seabird colonies. “However, despite our efforts, Scottish Ministers issued consents for all four projects in 2014, even though predicted impacts could result in major declines to our internationally renowned seabird colonies including gannets, puffins and kittiwakes that breed and forage in the region. ”
The move follows a decision taken in July by the Inner House of the Court of Session, which refused the RSPB’s application to appeal a decision made by the court in May to reinstate planning permission for the projects.
Planning consent for the four projects – of which Neart na Gaoithe is the most advanced – was initially revoked by the courts following a petition from the RSPB arguing the installations would have a huge impact on protected sea birds.
On making the application, Anne McCall, Director, RSPB Scotland said: “RSPB Scotland has not taken this decision lightly, however our concerns with the manner in which Scottish Ministers’ took their decisions in 2014 remain undiminished.
“Due to the implications of this latest decision for many aspects of our work we felt we had no choice but to apply to the Supreme Court. We are hopeful that our application is successful and that we are granted leave to appeal so these important issues of public interest can be considered in detail by the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile a coalition of organisations that are supportive of the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm, consented to be built off the East coast of Scotland, has joined forces to appeal to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland to abandon further court action aimed at delaying the project.
Twenty-nine companies, who will be behind the creation of many of the 600 jobs the offshore wind farm will create during construction and operation, have formed the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition to campaign in support of the project, saying it is the only major infrastructure project that is ready to build in Scotland next year.
In its first collective action, members of the coalition have written an open letter to RSPB Scotland that was due to be published in a number of national newspapers on Wednesday saying that the Scottish renewables supply chain can ill afford further delays in the project.
Alan Duncan of Scotia Supply Chain, and a spokesman for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition, said: “We have come together to call on RSPB Scotland to recognise the serious social, economic and environmental consequences of ignoring the advice of the Inner House of Scotland’s Court of Session and continuing to appeal this decision.
“Hundreds of families in communities across the east of Scotland will be directly affected should this project not go ahead. Highly skilled jobs, vital apprenticeships and the socio-economic benefits of this project are all at risk for the hard-pressed communities within the region.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We note the RSPB’s decision, which comes after the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled, decisively, in favour of Scottish Ministers and subsequently dismissed the RSPB’s application for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
“The Scottish Government is focused on creating a sustainable energy future for Scotland, so that Scotland can meet its obligations to fight climate change; and thereby tackling a key threat to marine ecosystems.”
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