RSPB objects to flow country wind farm

Greenshank is a scarce breeder in Britain, which only uses the flow country here. Photo: Hans Hillewaert (commons.wikimedia.org).
Greenshank is a scarce breeder in Britain, which only uses the flow country here. Photo: Hans Hillewaert (commons.wikimedia.org).
RSPB Scotland is objecting to a proposal for a large-scale wind farm in the heart of the flow country in Sutherland.

The flow country, a wide expanse of peatland and wetland with about 1,500 square miles of blanket bogs, is currently being considered as a potential World Heritage Site. Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, Greenshank, Dunlin, European Golden Plover and Merlin all breed in the habitat.

Energy company SSE have applied to build a 47-turbine scheme on an area of commercial conifers at Strathy South.  The site is completely encircled by globally important peatland habitats, protected under European and Scottish law. The area proposed for development would have been given similar protection were it not for inappropriate planting with conifers in the 1980s.

The final go-ahead for the proposal will rest with Scottish Ministers but The Highland Council will have a strong influence too. RSPB Scotland is urging those concerned about the proposals to email the Scottish government’s energy consent unit at representations@scotland.gsi.gov.uk and copy to Highland Council at planning.sutherland@highland.gov.uk.

RSPB spokesman Kenny Graham said: “A number of wind farms have already been consented on the margins of the internationally important peatlands, outside of the core area. However, this proposal at Strathy South is very different. If agreed, we will see a large-scale wind farm being developed slap-bang in the heart of the flows, in an area surrounded by designated peatlands and populated by protected species.

“Thirty years ago, non-native conifer plantations were planted in the flows. This is now universally acknowledged to have been a terrible mistake. The proposal, which would replace a plantation with a wind farm, would show that the lessons of that unhappy episode have not been learnt. It would also drive a coach and horses through the shared aim of government and various conservation organisations to restore huge swathes of this internationally important habitat, and right the wrongs of past forestry policy. It would also pose a grave threat to the flows’ candidacy for World Heritage status.”

“The developer has reduced the number of turbines and stated that they will 'mitigate' some of the impacts on wildlife, but this is just tinkering with a development fundamentally in the wrong place. We should instead be restoring this precious site to its previous state, as has been instigated in other important areas of the flow country. The peatlands are precious and of international importance. We should protect and enhance them. That would be the environmentally correct thing to do. We hope that The Highland Council and Scottish Ministers will reject this proposal and send a clear message: renewables are important but will not be developed at any cost to Scotland’s peatlands”.