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Companies write to birds lobby group

Wind farm coalition urges RSPB to drop legal bid

Andy Kinsella of Mainstream Renewable Power

A coalition of organisations backing a £2 billion windfarm in the Forth Estuary are appealing to a bird protection lobby to abandon further legal action to stop it being built.

The Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm won a long-running battle in the courts but is facing another appeal by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland.

The RSPB intends to continue its battle against construction of the NnG wind farm and has lodged a request directly with the Supreme Court to appeal a recent court decision reinstating the project’s planning permission.

Twenty nine companies, which will create many of the 600 jobs during construction and operation, have formed the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition to campaign in support of the project, which is the only major infrastructure project that is ready to build in Scotland next year. 

In its first collective action, members of the coalition have written an open letter to RSPB Scotland stating that the Scottish renewables supply chain can ill afford further delays in the project.

It is appealing to the RSPB’s members to accept the recent decision of the Scottish courts.  On 19 July the Inner House of the Scottish Court of Session rejected RSPB’s request for permission to appeal a previous decision by the Court of Session which gave NnG the green light. 

RSPB Scotland has given notice to the interested parties that it now plans to ask the Supreme Court in London directly for permission to lodge a further appeal. The project was originally consented by Scottish Ministers in 2014. 

Director of RSPB Scotland Anne McCall said the decision to apply directly to the Supreme Court to continue its legal battle was not taken lightly, but insisted the charity’s initial concerns about potential harm to protected seabirds “remain undiminished”.

“Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House judgement extend beyond simply the impacts of these developments on important seabird populations,” she added.

“Therefore due to the implications of this latest decision for many aspects of our work we felt we had no choice but to apply to the Supreme Court. We are hopeful that our application is successful and that we are granted leave to appeal so these important issues of public interest can be considered in detail by the Supreme Court.”

Mainstream Renewable Power’s NnG project is one of four wind farms consented in the outer Forth and Tay estuaries and the only one which has been awarded a Contract for Difference, meaning it is ready to start construction as early as next year.

NnG will generate 450 megawatts of electricity – enough green energy to power all the homes in a city the size of Edinburgh – and will displace 400,000 tonnes of CO2 every year from a site 15.5km off the coast of Fife. 

It is forecast to create 500 direct jobs during construction and a further 100 direct, permanent jobs once built. Technological developments in wind turbine design in the three years since NnG was originally consented mean that the project now requires 60% fewer turbines than what was originally planned – to generate the same amount of renewable power. 

Alan Duncan of Scotia Supply Chain, and a spokesperson for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition, said: “We have come together to call on RSPB Scotland to recognise the serious social, economic and environmental consequences of ignoring the advice of the Inner House of Scotland’s Court of Session and continuing to appeal this decision.

“Hundreds of families in communities across the east of Scotland will be directly affected should this project not go ahead. Highly skilled jobs, vital apprenticeships and the socio-economic benefits of this project are all at risk for the hard-pressed communities within the region.

“While we are sympathetic to the concerns of the RSPB about the planning process, this is about real people, real jobs and real environmental benefit.

“Scotland cannot afford to put nationally significant infrastructure projects like NnG at risk. We all work in the environmental power sector, developing projects like NnG which will help to combat climate change, protect our environment and create jobs.

“The project has sought to work with RSPB from day one and we are keen to continue to work together with them to increase industry understanding of how offshore wind assets and wildlife can successfully thrive together.

“We strongly believe that the output of the legal due process should be respected and we call on the RSPB to abandon their appeal to the Supreme Court and agree to work with us to deliver this exciting project of huge importance to Scotland.”

 

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