RSPB launches Supreme Court legal attack to sink £2bn quartet of Scottish offshore wind farms

A fresh legal challenge by a bird charity threatens to finally sink a planned £2 billion investment in a ‘four-pack’ development of major Scottish offshore wind farms.

Last month, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that the following four major renewable energy projects by the mainly Chinese and Irish developers can go ahead:

  • Mainstream’s 450MW Neart na Gaoithe
  • Red Rock’s 784MW
  • Inch Cape and SSE/Fluor’s 1050MW Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo.

The Inch Cape Offshore Wind Farm is an approx. 600MW development off the coast of Angus in eastern Scotland and has been under development since 2009, with the Scot-Govt. approving the project in October 2014.

The initial legal challenge was made at the start of 2015 against the Scot-Govt. decision to grant consent for construction and operation of the Inch Cape Offshore Wind Farm.

The Court of Session’s Outer House (lower appeal) court decision in June 2016 found in favour of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which resulted in the consent decisions being quashed, but the Scot-Govt. last month successfully appealed that decision to three judges of the Inner House – Scotland’s highest appeal court.

But now the RSPB has made a new application to the Inner House for permission to appeal its judgment to the British Supreme Court in London.

Anne McCall, Director RSPB Scotland, said: Having explored all our options carefully, and with great reluctance, we initiated legal challenges against those consents in January 2015 – and we were successful (See RSPB statement here).

“However, these judgments were overturned this year on 16th May following appeals by the Scottish Ministers and the developers. 

“We have a number of serious concerns with the Inner House’s judgment, and following careful consideration, RSPB Scotland has decided to start the appeal process by applying to the Inner House for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“RSPB Scotland continues to fully support the development of renewable energy and the vast majority of projects continue to pose no significant threat to birds or other wildlife.

“However, we are concerned that this judgment could set worrying precedents for the protection of wildlife across Scotland and the UK.

“In light of our concerns we have decided to start the appeal process by applying to the Inner House for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

See also expert legal explanation:

Why judges gave the go-ahead to Scottish ‘Quartet’ offshore wind farm plans by Inch Cape, Seagreen and Mainstream

A spokesman for Irish developer Mainstream Renewable Power said: “We are committed to working with all partners, including the RSPB, to deliver this nationally-significant infrastructure project and the vitally important jobs and investment that it will create.

“Neart na Gaoithe is a £2 billioin project capable of supplying all the homes in a city the size of Edinburgh with clean energy and is the only project out of the four offshore wind projects in the Forth and Tay to hold a Contract for Difference (CfD).

“Rapid advances in offshore wind technology have enabled us to reduce the number of turbines to be installed from 125 in the original consent application in 2012, to a maximum of 64 turbines today.”

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