Scottish Judges through the Court of Session have overturned an earlier ruling that had quashed consent for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore windfarm proposed for the Fife coastline.
Neart na Gaoithe (125 turbines) and three other proposed offshore wind farms faced legal challenges from RSPB in 2015 with a spokesperson stating:
“We have 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. We only take legal challenges that raise important issues of public interest surrounding the protection of the UK’s natural environment.
We continue to support the development of carefully sited and designed renewables, including offshore wind. However, this must not be at the cost of the environment they are intended to protect so individual developments must be sited to avoid significant harm.
Unfortunately, consents were granted when thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from iconic internationally protected wildlife sites like the Bass Rock and the Isle of May were predicted to be killed every year.”
The case was heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh with Judge Lord Stewart ruling in favour of the RSPB in 2016 concluding that the original consents for the developments were flawed.
Today (Tuesday 16th May 2017) the Court of Session ruled in favour of the developers and the Scottish Government, essentially overturning the earlier ruling.
The ruling green lights Neart na Gaoithe (450MW – Developer – Mainstream), Inch Cape (784MW – Developer – Red Rock), and Seagreen Alpha & Bravo (1050MW – Developers – SSE/Fluor)
The proposed Neart na Gaoithe development previously secured lucrative subsidies through the Contract for Difference scheme (CfD) is to be located near the iconic and important wildlife sites, the Isle of May and Bass Rock.
The Isle of May is a Scottish National Nature Reserve, European Special Protection Area, and a Special Area of Conservation, which has played an important scientific role since 1934 in the research of Seabirds, Grey seals, Reefs and ongoing migration monitoring.
The Bass Rock is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its Gannet colony, and is also classified as a Special Protection Area.
David Sweenie project manager for the Offshore Wind Farm says:
“This is a major step forward for Neart na Gaoithe, which is the only project out of the four offshore wind projects in the Forth and Tay to hold a CfD. We plan to move quickly with all our partners to bring this project to construction, and deliver the vitally important jobs and investment that it will create.”
Stuart Housden director of RSPB Scotland said:
“RSPB Scotland is, of course, hugely disappointed by today’s judgement. While we fully support deployment of renewable energy, this must not be at any cost.
“Combined, these four huge projects threaten to kill thousands of Scotland’s internationally protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes.
“We will now need to take some time to consider this judgement in detail and consider its wider implications before commenting further.”
Developers are hoping to begin construction within the decade.