February 2007

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2007 |  February 2007

Ministers should reject damaging wind farm proposal

Ministers should reject damaging wind farm proposal

2nd February 2007
RSPB Scotland has today submitted its formal objection to Lewis Wind Power's modified proposal to build a controversial wind farm on Lewis, in the Western Isles, because of the devastating impact it would have.
The Scottish Executive has been seeking comment on the developer's plans - but from Monday the book is shut, and ministers should then decide whether this massive project goes ahead.
The damage that the wind farm would cause to the fragile peatland habitat and to the birds and other wildlife that depend on it is much too high a price to pay – and the RSPB calls upon Ministers to reject the scheme.
On the day when the International Panel on Climate Change has announced that the global warming we are experiencing is almost certainly caused by man made emissions, we need to be thinking about sensible, responsible action to combat climate change.
The RSPB views climate change as the most serious threat to birds and their habitats, and sees renewable energy as one way to alleviate this threat. However, it would be entirely self defeating to advocate building wind farms right in the middle of our most important wildlife areas.
We welcome the Scottish Executive's challenging targets for renewable energy – but this wind farm is not needed to achieve them. There are alternatives both in the Western Isles and elsewhere in Scotland, which do not impact on European protected sites.
Most of the development would be sited in a Special Protection Area (SPA) that is protected under European law. Before deciding that significant environmental impacts are acceptable, ministers must be sure that there are no alternatives, and that there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest which justify serious damage to a protected site.
Having scrutinised the detail of their application we remain gravely concerned about the damaging impacts the development would cause. The developer’s own environmental assessment identifies potential for 600MW of onshore wind generation elsewhere on the Western Isles outside the SPA, and of course many other suitable schemes can be found elsewhere in Scotland. The number of jobs that the development could support has also been challenged by independent experts.
The RSPB has not objected to 90% of the wind farm proposals in Scotland that we have reviewed – but where developments threaten damage to birds and their habitats on this scale we have to object as vocally as we can.
Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: 'Despite a modest revision to their proposal, the fact remains that the vast majority of the development – that includes roads, pylons, quarries and substations as well as the 181 turbines each more that 460 feet high – will still be built inside a Special Protection Area, threatening habitats and wildlife of European significance.
'An industrial scale complex of this nature would cause massive long-term damage to this important area. It is simply the wrong development in the wrong place – and we remain resolute in our opposition to it.'
He added: 'The Scottish Executive should reject this proposal – and send a strong signal to developers in Scotland that the laws we rightly have in place to protect our most important areas for wildlife will be robustly enforced. Sadly, it is cases like this that hinder the speedy roll out of renewable energy which is part of the solution to the serious threat posed by climate change.'
The RSPB was very surprised at the developer’s claim they can build a wind farm of this scale on an extremely sensitive peatland site that is densely populated with a host of specially protected species without having a significant impact. Yet, the developer’s own environmental statement supporting their application, acknowledges that 46 golden eagles will be killed as a result of collisions, as well as between 20 and 40 red throated divers, and hundreds of dunlin (left) lost due to displacement.
Another key justification that Lewis Wind Power have given for the project is that the development is crucial to secure an interconnector that will take the electricity generated in the Western Isles to the mainland. However, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Limited (SHETL), who are currently consulting on the route for such an interconnector, have publicly clarified that this proposal is not necessary to achieve that aim.
Just last week RSPB Scotland released an economic assessment of the project, commissioned from DTZ Consulting. It revealed serious flaws in the developers’ own claims of the economic benefits, and estimated that the number of jobs created by the wind farm would be a staggering 70% less than Lewis Wind Power claim. Rather than 233 jobs supported by the development, the DTZ assessment estimated that it would support, at best, around 70 jobs. An independent academic has supported DTZ’s contention that there are serious errors in the developers’ economic analysis.
The Scottish Executive’s challenging renewables targets can easily be achieved without this development. There are alternatives, not just in the Western Isles but also throughout Scotland. For this reason Ministers should reject this damaging and unnecessary scheme.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2007 |  February 2007

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