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RSPB Scotland abandons plans to build wind turbine on its own reserve after criticism

A Whooper Swan touches down at the RSPB Reserve at Loch of Strathbeg, near Fraserburgh

A Whooper Swan touches down at the RSPB Reserve at Loch of Strathbeg, near Fraserburgh

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

A LEADING wildlife charity has abandoned controversial plans to erect a wind turbine at one of Scotland’s largest nature reserves, The Scotsman can reveal.

RSPB Scotland was accused of hypocrisy and double standards earlier this year after revealing proposals to install a 62ft high “domestic” turbine at its Loch of Strathbeg reserve, near Crimond, in Aberdeenshire.

The reserve is home to almost 300 species of birds during the year, and in winter tens of thousands of geese, including up to a quarter of the world’s population of pink-footed geese, visit the loch.

The RSPB, which has objected to a number of major wind farm developments, claimed that the installation of the turbine would help improve the environmental performance of the charity’s estate. But now the charity has decided to scrap the scheme after it was blown off course by defence chiefs.

More than 20 letters of objection from members of the public had already been received by Aberdeenshire Council, vehemently opposing the RSPB’s plans on the grounds that the turbine poses a risk to birdlife on the reserve.

But the Ministry of Defence has also put its weight behind the opposition to the scheme, claiming that the turbine could pose a risk to Britain’s air surveillance defence network and national security. The turbine would be sited less than seven miles from the frontline radar station at RAF Buchan.

James Reynolds, a spokesman for RSPB Scotland, said: “We can confirm that we have withdrawn our plans for a wind turbine at Loch of Strathbeg due to objections from the Ministry of Defence. Any objections to our plans only became apparent once they were in the public arena.”

He continued: “The site we had chosen at Loch of Strathbeg was considered ideal for a domestic turbine of just 19 metres – lower than the height of many of the trees on this reserve – because it would have minimal impact on the wildlife we work every day to protect.

“Climate change is the single biggest threat to all of nature, which is why the RSPB, as a conservation charity, is committed to sourcing renewable energy supplies. In light of the current objection from the MoD we are looking at other options for sourcing green energy.

“As Europe’s largest environmental charity, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and will continue to develop alternative energy solutions wherever possible to help protect nature and wildlife for future generations.”

It is understood that the charity may look at the possibility of using solar panels to help cut electricity costs at the popular reserve.

Beverley Fletcher, the assistant safeguarding officer for the MoD, had outlined their objection to the green energy scheme in a letter to Aberdeenshire Council.

She stated: “The probability of the radar detecting aircraft flying over in the vicinity of the turbines would be reduced, and the RAF would be unable to provide a full air surveillance in the area of the proposed wind farm.”

The application had also attracted a number of objections from members of the public.

One objector claimed: “Newly released Spanish government research found that each operational turbine kills an average of 300 birds per year. Birds including buzzards, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse are abandoning countryside around wind turbines.”

An ornithology report submitted by RSPB Scotland admitted that a small number of pink-footed geese and whooper swans would be at risk of collision, but claimed that the turbine was unlikely to have a “significant impact” on the qualifying species of Loch of Strathbeg special protection area.

 

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