The Supreme Court has rejected RSPB Scotland’s request to consider an appeal into the Scot-Govt in 2014 to greenlight four offshore wind farms off the east coast of Scotland – meaning the very large-scale developments can proceed.
These include the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm from Mainstream Renewable Power, which is based in the Republic of Ireland.
Andy Kinsella, Chief Executive, Mainstream Renewable Power said: “After more than two and a half years, two court hearings and two rejected applications for leave to appeal by RSPB Scotland, we can finally focus on delivering the very significant benefits this project brings to the Scottish economy and its environment.
“Once constructed this £2 billion project will be capable of supplying 325,000 homes – a city the size of Edinburgh – with clean energy.
“A study by the Fraser of Allander Institute shows the project will create 2,000 jobs each year during its four year construction period as well as hundreds of permanent jobs once operational.
“We are delighted with the decision and look forward to working constructively with RSPB Scotland to take the wind farm into construction next year.”
The NnG project was approved by St. Andrew’s House in October 2014 on the advice of Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland.
Kinsella added: “Since then, we have taken advantage of significant advances in wind turbine technology allowing the number of turbines to be reduced from the 125 in the original design to a maximum of 54 today. Work is expected to start on the project in 2018.”
Alan Duncan, a spokesman for the supply-chain Support NnG Coalition said: “We are delighted with this decision. This means the only major infrastructure project that is ready to build in Scotland next year can now go ahead, creating 2,000 jobs for each year of its four year construction process as well as hundreds of long-term permanent jobs.
“This nationally-significant infrastructure project has already been delayed unnecessarily by RSPB Scotland for more than two and a half years so now it’s our time to come together and make the most of this £827 million injection into our economy.”
The RSPB said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ at the court decision not to hear its appeal but that it would work ‘constructively’ with the developers and the Scottish Government to try to ensure that the major impacts of these projects or any updated projects for these sites on seabirds are mitigated as much as possible.
Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We are extremely disappointed with this decision, following nearly a decade’s worth of effort from RSPB Scotland to help deliver offshore wind in Scotland in a manner that respects one of the country’s most impressive and internationally renowned natural assets – its fantastic seabird colonies.
“We have worked on the Firth of Forth and Tay projects for nearly a decade to try and ensure that they progress without causing unacceptable harm to our internationally important seabird colonies.
“Despite our efforts, these projects were granted consent by Scottish Ministers. The Minister’s own assessments spelt out huge risks to seabird populations, including to puffins, gannets and kittiwakes which nest on our coasts and feed in the shallow waters in and around these projects.
“If these consents and their predicted impacts are realised, there is little doubt these would be amongst the most damaging offshore windfarms for seabirds in the world.
“In addition to these enormous risks to wildlife, we had major concerns with the assessment methods and the approach taken by Scottish Ministers. Due to these concerns RSPB Scotland felt there was no other option but to judicially review the Ministers’ decisions.
“And, perhaps most worryingly, it could also set an extremely dangerous precedent for decision-making on future development, whereby Scottish Ministers no longer need to take heed of their own expert nature conservation advisors (Scottish Natural Heritage), nor the concerns of the public or indeed consider the implications of development on areas known to be of international importance to wildlife.
“We would call on Scottish Ministers to put those words into action and ensure that improvements are made to Scotland’s planning and consenting processes to ensure that such damaging consents cannot be issued in future.”
8 Nov 2017