The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds yesterday lost its long and expensive case against the Scottish Government over the giant Neart na Gaoithe wind farm in the Firth of Forth.
The UK Supreme Court refused permission for the RSPB to appeal against the decision of Scotland’s top civil court that Mainstream Renewable Power’s development – it will create 2000 jobs and provide enough energy to power a city the size of Edinburgh – could go ahead.
The RSPB had argued in court since the 2014 grant of planning consent that the farm’s turbines would cause carnage among the bird life in an area which is home to some of the largest concentrations in Europe of species such as gannets and kittiwakes.
The Court of Session rejected its appeal, and now the Supreme Court has confirmed that decision. That means the development can go ahead as scheduled next year unless the RSPB takes its case to the European courts – a step it did not rule out last night.
The Supreme Court stated: “Permission to appeal been refused on the grounds that the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered at this time, bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.”
Mainstream Renewable Power’s chief executive, Andy Kinsella, said: “After more than two and a half years, two court hearings and two rejected applications for leave to appeal by RSPB Scotland, we can finally focus on delivering the very significant benefits this project brings to the Scottish economy and its environment. The project will bring £827 million directly to the Scottish economy over its lifetime. We are delighted with the decision and look forward to working constructively with RSPB Scotland to take the wind farm into construction next year.
“We look forward to seeing it up and running. We have taken advantage of significant advances in wind turbine technology, allowing the number of turbines to be reduced from the 125 in the original design to a maximum of 54.”
RSPB Scotland director Anne McCall said: “RSPB Scotland is extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to refuse permission to appeal the recent Court of Session Inner House opinion.
“In light of this refusal for permission to appeal we will be taking some time to consider the other options remaining to us. However, we are extremely disappointed with this decision, following nearly a decade’s worth of effort from RSPB Scotland to help deliver offshore wind in Scotland in a manner that respects one of the country’s most impressive and internationally renowned natural assets – its fantastic seabird colonies.
“And, perhaps most worryingly, it could also set an extremely dangerous precedent for decision-making on future development, whereby Scottish Ministers no longer need to take heed of their own expert nature conservation advisers, nor the concerns of the public, or indeed consider the implications of development on areas known to be of international importance to wildlife.”
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