During pre-application discussions with the developer's consultants, we highlighted the importance of the area to breeding common scoters. Nearby lochs have been designated under European law as the West Inverness-shire Lochs Special Protection Area (SPA) for this type of duck which has a very small and declining UK breeding population.
We were concerned that during migration flights between wintering areas on the sea and inland nesting sites scoters might collide with turbines. The standard of proof required for developments which might adversely affect qualifying interests of SPAs is high and we were concerned that it would be difficult to quantify the collision risk of a bird which is rare, flies infrequently when inland and probably does so mostly at night. 'Qualifying interests' is the technical term for the species listed on the designation citation for an SPA.
Nevertheless, the information and arguments provided in support of the planning application reassured us that the risks were sufficiently low that they would not prevent a lawful consent being issued. Accordingly, we did not object to this application, provided it was made conditional on implementation of an agreed common scoter conservation plan. We also indicated our willingness to be involved in the implementation of such a plan given RSPB's expertise and history of work with common scoters.