A coalition of businesses has called on one of the UK’s most powerful charities to stop fighting plans for a major off-shore wind farm and warned that the livelihoods of hundreds of families are at stake.
Twenty-nine companies claim that the continued legal action by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) could further delay or even kill off the £2 billion renewable energy scheme and the 600 jobs involved in it. An appeal to the Supreme Court in London by the RSPB, announced yesterday, challenges the approval given by Scottish ministers to the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm off the east coast of Scotland. The charity is to ask the court for leave to appeal against a Court of Session decision earlier this year which gave the green light to one of Scotland’s largest offshore energy projects.
Mainstream Renewable Power, the wind farm’s developer, has said that it estimates the project would bring an additional £610 million in revenue into the regional economy.
A full-page advertisement in national newspapers today says that the RSPB’s action would further delay a project first planned ten years ago and given consent to by the Scottish government in 2014; it has been dragged through the courts ever since.
The coalition includes CS Wind UK, Eyemouth Harbour Trust, GeoSea, James Fisher Marine Services, Montrose Marine Services, Xero Energy and SeaRoc Group.
The RSPB argues that the 64 turbines planned off the Firth of Forth would threaten local populations of kittiwakes, puffins and gannets, despite a detailed environmental survey commissioned from the British Trust for Ornithology, which estimated that the turbines would harm no more than 100 gannets a year. Since there are an estimated 150,000 gannets nesting on the nearby Bass Rock, and 12,000 a year die of natural causes, the coalition behind the wind farm says that the impact of the scheme would be marginal.
However, the RSPB has decided to take the last legal step allowed it by appealing directly to the Supreme Court.
It argues that Scottish ministers were wrong to approve the scheme, and if three other offshore developments were also given the go-ahead, they could lead to a “major decline in sea-bird populations”.
Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “[We have] not taken this decision lightly. However, our concerns with the manner in which Scottish ministers took their decisions in 2014 remain undiminished.
“Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House (Court of Session) judgment extend beyond simply the impacts of these developments on important seabird populations.”