Neart na Gaoithe project on east coast likely to go ahead after long-running court battle despite claim it threatens seabirds
July 19, 2017 — A £2bn offshore windfarm in Scotland looks set to go ahead after the RSPB lost a long-running legal challenge against the plans, which the conservationists said threatened puffins, gannets and kittiwakes.
The Scottish government gave its consent to four major windfarms in the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay in 2014, but the RSPB launched a judicial review, saying it was extremely concerned at the impact on seabirds.
The charity won an initial court victory against Scottish ministers but a judge overturned that decision in May, clearing the development and prompting the RSPB to seek an appeal in the UK’s supreme court.
On Wednesday, the court of session ruled it was refusing the application for the case to be sent to the supreme court.
Mainstream Renewable Power said it now looked forward to starting construction next year on the Neart na Gaoithe windfarm, north of Torness on Scotland’s east coast, which will be capable of powering 325,000 homes.
Andy Kinsella, the company’s chief operating officer, said: “After more than two years and two court hearings, we hope that the RSPB acknowledges a fair hearing and allows us to get on with delivering the very significant benefits this project brings to the Scottish economy and its environment.”
The firm said it was confident it could build the windfarm without harming wildlife and said the rise of more powerful turbines meant it had reduced their number from 125 in the original planning application to a maximum of 64.
Mainstream Renewable Power has secured a subsidy contract for its windfarm but the other three, backed by different developers, would need to win subsidy deals to go ahead. The Scottish government has estimated the four projects would generate up to £1.2bn for the country’s economy.
Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “While disappointed by the court of session decision it is not wholly unexpected. We will now take time to consider the details and determine our next steps.
“The existing consents, if implemented, could have a significant impact on Scotland’s breeding seabirds but we are hopeful that by continuing to work with all the developers we will be able to reduce those impacts.”