Beinneun Wind Farm

Tagged with: Casework status: Closed Casework type: Energy Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI
 Wind Farm on Slieve Rushen, Co, Fermanagh

Overview

A 25-turbine wind farm was proposed near Fort Augustus, Highland, by Ridge Wind. We were initially concerned as the site is close to breeding common scoters.

The applicant's ecological consultants addressed our concerns in an environmental statement submitted with their planning application. This followed discussions with them. As a result we did not object, making it clear that any consent also ensured implementation of an agreed common scoter management plan.

The application was consented by Scottish Government in November 2012, including conditions suggested by the society relating to the management plan.

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

West Inverness-shire Lochs was designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EC Birds Directive in 2009.

A population of black-throated divers and one of Britain's main concentrations of breeding common scoters are located on this network of eight lochs west of the Great Glen.

Black-throated diver and common scoter are two of Scotland's rarest breeding birds, which depend on undisturbed lochs in the Highlands to nest.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra, ducklings swimming, Forsinard Flows RSPB reserve, Sutherland, Scotland

Our position

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.

Timeline

  • November 2012
    Scottish Government consents application, with conditions

  • December 2011
    RSPB Scotland comments on application raising no objection

  • October 2010
    Scoping consultation by Scottish Government

  • April 2010
    Initial, pre-application, discussions with Applicant's consultants begin

Outcome

In November 2012 the Scottish Government consented the application, with conditions suggested by RSPB Scotland.

These will ensure monitoring of the development's impacts on common scoter and a research programme into the species breeding ecology as well as a habitat management plan which will also provide enhancement for another species entirely, black grouse.