The public inquiry due to start earlier this week into Scottish and Southern Energy’s controversial windfarm proposals at Strathy South in Sutherland has been delayed following a procedural error by SSE.
The Perth-based energy giant announced that it has changed its plans for managing the sensitive peatland at the site in Strathy South, in the Flow Country of Sutherland. Unfortunately, SSE had changed their plans so late that there was insufficient time to allow the new plans to be fully scrutinised before the inquiry started, forcing the delay.
Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development, RSPB Scotland, said: “The whole approach to this site by Scottish and Southern Energy has been extremely disappointing.
“RSPB Scotland first made it clear to SSE over 10 years ago that this was a completely unsuitable site for a windfarm. It is one of the best places for wildlife, not just in Scotland, but anywhere in Europe. We continue to urge SSE to concentrate instead on delivering much needed wind power from less damaging sites.
“Unfortunately, SSE have not heeded concerns from others about the damage their development would cause and it seems they have carried this approach into the inquiry. While all other parties have done their best to stick to deadlines, SSE have been late for almost every one. This has put the reporter in a very difficult position and forced this delay, inconveniencing all those involved.”
The inquiry is administered by an independent ‘Reporter’, appointed by Scottish Ministers. In an almost unprecedented move, with the inquiry having been due to start at 10am on Monday, the Reporter was forced to delay proceedings at at 5pm on the Friday evening.
Smith continued: “Given the circumstances, we fully support the Reporter’s decision to delay consideration of bird impacts until June, but this is one of Europe’s best peatland habitats. The implications of SSE’s new peatland habitat management proposals need to be scrutinised in detail and there’s now simply insufficient time to do this before Thursday.
“We are very worried that this shortage of time will mean RSPB Scotland cannot present full information to inquiry, prejudicing our case. Frustratingly, this is only of further advantage to SSE, who caused these problems in the first place.”
RSPB Scotland is calling for the peatland session to also be delayed until June to ensure there is sufficient time to consider SSE’s new peatland management plans.