Fears plans to double size of windfarm would put golden eagles at risk

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Protected golden eagles are under threat by plans to almost double the size of a windfarm in the Highlands, experts have warned.

The RSPB said it was “seriously alarmed” by proposals from Uisenis Power to expand the number of turbines on Eishken Estate on Lewis in the Western Isles.

Stuart Benn, a spokesman for the bird charity, said: “This could have a devastating impact on what is one of Europe’s best sites for golden eagles.

“We are frankly amazed the developer should want yet more turbines on this site.”

Uisenis Power, owned by Nicholas Oppenheim, hopes to fit 30 of the green energy structures next to 39 machines which have permission to be built on the estate in South Lochs next year.

Mr Benn said the new and existing plan endangered golden and white-tailed eagles.

He added: “This area supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles. We know that placing wind farms in the wrong place can be hugely damaging with many bird casualties.

“This area supports around a dozen breeding pairs of golden eagles which produce a good number of chicks every year.

“The area also forms the nucleus of the recent expansion of white-tailed eagles in the Western Isles. We believe that siting yet more turbines in this area risks a serious long-term impact on the populations of our largest and most magnificent birds of prey. This proposal should be stopped its tracks.”

Mr Oppenheim claims that after ten years of RSPB opposition to windfarms that have been given the green light there are “now more eagles than ever around the place”.

He added: “We are looking at creating employment opportunities after the main windfarm is built. The community benefit will be every bit as good, if not better, than the present deal to residents.”

The white tailed sea eagle is the largest eagle in the UK, meaning they are known as flying barn doors because of their huge wingspan. They have been reintroduced into Scotland since 1975 after they were hunted to extinction.

ALISTAIR MUNRO