Stacain Wind Farm

Tagged with: Casework status: Closed Casework type: Energy
Causeymire Wind Farm, Achkeepster, Caithness, Highland region, Scotland

Overview

The application for a 14-turbine windfarm at Stacain was refused by Scottish Ministers in October 2009 due to unacceptable effects on golden eagle.

An application for a 14-turbine windfarm at Stacain, Argyll and Bute was submitted in April 2005 by WPR Wind Ltd. Following public inquiry the application was refused by Scottish Ministers in October 2009 due to unacceptable effects on golden eagle.

In April 2010 this decision was overturned in the Court of Session on a technicality. A second public inquiry was held in November 2010 and in July 2011, Scottish Ministers refused permission a second time. Following a further legal challenge, consent was again refused, this time by the Court of Session, in December 2012.

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The proposed windfarm was to be located within a Special Protection Area (SPA) classified for golden eagles under the EU Birds Directive. The planned windfarm would have seriously affected the viability of a golden eagle territory which has a long history of successful breeding and would be a core part of the new European site which is being considered.

Golden eagles are listed on Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive and therefore required to be subject to 'special conservation measures'. These measures include – but are not confined to – SPAs.

Golden eagles in Scotland are in 'unfavourable conservation status'. They are present in fifteen SNH 'natural heritage zones' – but only four of these (including Argyll West and Islands) support healthy golden eagle populations.

Our position

In 2005, we objected to this proposal for a 14-turbine windfarm as the proposal would have a significant adverse impact on golden eagle (an Annex 1 species under the European Bird Directive). In addition, the proposal would have an adverse impact on an area that is being considered as a potential SPA. The Glen Etive & Glen Fyne SPA was formally proposed in 2009, and confirmed in October 2010.

Certain critical pieces of information were lacking from the Environmental Statement (ES) which accompanied the application, particularly with regard to appropriate habitat management to mitigate the effects of the wind farm and the assessment of collision risk. The ES predicted adverse impacts on golden eagles through loss of habitat due to disturbance and additional mortality due to collision with turbines.

Although predicted collision mortality rates were lower than for some windfarm proposals elsewhere, in the context of the SPA they were large enough to jeopardise the conservation status of the area - and hence further undermine the status of golden eagle nationally.

We share SNH's view that the Stacain proposal would have caused unacceptable adverse impact on golden eagles – and that the potential impacts would not have been outweighed by any benefits which might have resulted.

Timeline

  • December 2012
    Court of Session upholds Scottish Ministers' decision – consent refused
  • August 2011
    Appeal against Scottish Ministers' second refusal
  • July 2011
    Scottish Ministers refuse the application for a second time
  • November 2010
    Second public local inquiry
  • October 2010
    Glen Etive & Glen Fyne SPA (and five others) confirmed
  • April 2010
    Planning refusal overturned
  • December 2009
    Glen Etive & Glen Fyne SPA formally proposed
  • October 2009
    Scottish Ministers refuse the application due to unacceptable effects on golden eagle in line with the report's recommendations following the public local inquiry
  • November 2008
    Public local inquiry held. We do not appear but provide support for SNH's case
  • March 2008
    Ministers call in application
  • December 2007
    Council approval confirmed. We write to ministers to advise application should be called in, urging refusal
  • November 2007
    Argyll and Bute Council approve the application at a public local hearing against planning officer's recommendation
  • September 2007
    Argyll and Bute Council defer decision on planning application at local area committee
  • May 2007
    Objection maintained
  • July 2005
    We object to application on grounds of significant potential adverse impacts on golden eagle
  • April 2005
    Planning application for 14 wind turbines and associated development submitted

Outcome

We objected to the application in July 2005 and maintained the objection in May 2007 on the grounds of impacts on golden eagle. The application first went before Argyll and Bute planning committee in September 2007. The planning officer's report recommended refusal due to adverse ornithological and landscape impacts but councillors were minded to go against this recommendation and approve the application. However, due to legal issues, the decision was deferred. 

Despite our objection and an objection from SNH, Argyll and Bute Council approved the application at second committee in December 2007 against the planning officer's recommendation for refusal. The application was notified to Scottish Ministers due to the outstanding objection from SNH (as a statutory consultee). Scottish Ministers were successfully lobbied to call in the application for their own determination. Ministers called a public local inquiry, which sat in November 2008. In the interests of simplifying the inquiry process, we did not appear at the inquiry but provided support for SNH's case.

In October 2009, Scottish Ministers refused the application due to unacceptable effects on golden eagle in accordance with the reporter's recommendations following the Public Local Inquiry. The reporter concluded that the likely SPA designation and the subsequent requirement to abide by the Habitats Regulations were important material considerations and that an adverse impact on the potential golden eagle site could not be ruled out.

In April 2010, the Court of Session overturned Scottish Ministers' refusal of planning permission, on a technicality. In the meantime, Glen Etive & Glen Fyne had been formally proposed as an SPA for golden eagle. A second set of public inquiry hearings took place in November 2010.

In July 2011, in accordance with the Public Local Inquiry Reporter's recommendations, Scottish Minsters once again refused the application due to unacceptable impacts on golden eagles (this time unequivocally as part of the qualifying interest of an SPA).

In August 2011, the developer appealed Scottish Ministers' second refusal of the scheme, on the grounds that the inquiry reporter had applied the Habitats Regulations tests incorrectly. The appeal was heard in the autumn of 2012, and in December 2012 the Court of Session upheld the findings of the second public inquiry, confirming that Scottish Ministers were correct to refuse the scheme. We hope the developers will now give up on this inappropriate proposal and concentrate on delivering much-needed renewables in less sensitive locations. 

Further reading