A JUDICIAL review has been sought by RSPB Scotland against consent granted to four major offshore wind farm projects off the east coast.
The wildlife charity has lodged a legal challenge against approval by Scottish ministers to developments in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay last October. The Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo projects could provide 2.284 gigawatts of power, enough to power over 1.4m homes every year.
Consent was given under strict conditions to mitigate any potential environmental impact and backing was received from environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth Scotland. But RSPB Scotland objected to the plans and raised fears over the proximity of seabird colonies. The case will be decided at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after the charity submitted its legal challenge on Friday. Large colonies of gannet, kittiwake, puffin and razorbill breed along the coastlines near the wind farm sites, including the 110,000 gannet colony at the Bass Rock and puffin breeding grounds at the Isle of May.
A spokesman for the charity said: “We have not taken this decision lightly, but having given serious consideration to these decisions to grant consent, we have decided to take legal action.
“RSPB Scotland has a proven track record of taking a stand for nature, on behalf of our members and the general public, to ensure that wildlife and the natural environment is properly safeguarded for the future.
“If these decisions are allowed to stand, they could have serious implications for how birds and important wildlife sites are protected across Scotland and beyond. The vast majority of renewable energy developments pose no significant threat to birds or other wildlife.
“RSPB Scotland continues to support the development of carefully sited and designed renewables, including offshore wind. However, individual developments must be sited to avoid significant harm.”
The last legal challenge that RSPB Scotland were involved in concerned the proposals for the Cairngorm Funicular in 1997. This appeal was eventually dismissed by Lord Nimmo Smith at the Court of Session.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the RSPB’s intentions, but legal action has not yet been formally intimated. We are confident that the decisions taken are correct and robust and will vigorously defend any action.
“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places and Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of any onshore and offshore wind farm should reflect the scale and character of the landscape or seascape, and should be considered environmentally acceptable.”
Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said the challenge by RSPB Scotland was “really disappointing news”. She said: “Every one of these projects has been through an incredibly rigorous, detailed and independent assessment lasting anywhere between one and two years, and it now looks like there will be another lengthy examination of that process in court before they can go ahead.
“This action is now holding up two-thirds of the schemes in development around our coastline. This new delay will make it even harder for Scotland to catch up with the rest of UK and Northern Europe, which already have a sizeable offshore wind industry and supply chain supporting thousands of jobs.”