Four large Scottish offshore wind farm projects are in doubt after the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) successfully challenged their planning consents.
The wind farms are in the outer firths of the Forth and Tay. The RSPB claimed that the consents were granted despite fears that they could kill thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from protected wildlife sites such as the Bass Rock and the Isle of May every year. The RSPB said it had been working with the developers and Scottish ministers for several years to try and reduce the harm to seabirds
“In these circumstances, RSPB Scotland could not just stand by and let such devastating impacts on Scotland’s wildlife happen without making a stand. Regrettably, legal action was our only option,” said the RSPB.
Scotland’s minister for business, innovation and energy Paul Wheelhouse said the Scottish government had noted the judgement and it was now considering the implications.
“The Scottish government remains strongly committed to the development of offshore wind energy, as this key low-carbon technology offers a huge economic opportunity for Scotland, but, crucially, through helping to decarbonise our electricity supply, it also has a key role to play in our fight against the threat posed by climate change to both our society and our natural environment,” he said.
“Clearly, protecting Scotland’s marine environment is of paramount importance: it is at the heart of the Scottish government’s approach to offshore renewable energy applications, and we are keen to work constructively with both the RSPB and renewable energy developers to ensure the sector has a bright future in Scotland.”
Scottish Renewables senior policy manager Lindsay Roberts expressed disappointment at the decision. “Given the very significant levels of investment, employment and clean electricity these projects would deliver, I am sure that the Scottish Government and the developers who are involved will now want to look at the judgement in detail and assess the ruling before deciding how best to proceed,” she said.
RSPB Scotland’s head of conservation policy Lloyd Austin said: “The judgments are complex and we will therefore need some time to fully consider their implications, however, RSPB Scotland is encouraged by the decisions of the court, which have recognised the huge risks from these four offshore wind farms on Scotland’s internationally important areas for seabirds.
“Although RSPB Scotland’s decision to take legal action was the right one it is very regrettable that such significant time and effort was needed to reverse the decisions which put so much of Scotland’s wildlife at risk. This case demonstrates the critical importance of clear and effective environmental regulation that is properly implemented, as well as the importance of access to justice for NGOs and citizens to be able to ask the courts to scrutinise public decisions. RSPB Scotland is now keen to work with all parties to ensure we focus efforts on delivering much needed renewable energy in a way that does not threaten Scotland’s internationally important wildlife.
“RSPB Scotland will continue to robustly resist any projects which threaten Scotland’s best places for wildlife. However, we also remain resolutely supportive of the development of renewable energy sources in Scotland. There is an urgent need to decarbonise our energy systems to tackle the causes of climate change which are a major long term threat to wildlife.”