A £2bn offshore wind farm planned for the Scottish coast took a major step forward today, after courts rejected a request from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to take an appeal against the plans to the Supreme Court.
In the latest twist to the long-running legal saga, the Inner House of the Court of Session refused the RSPB’s application to appeal a decision made by the court in May to reinstate planning permission for the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe wind farm and three other large offshore wind projects.
Last year a court revoked planning consent for the projects, which would add 2GW of clean energy capacity to the grid, following a petition from the RSPB arguing the installations would have a huge impact on protected sea birds.
As the most advanced project of the group, Neart na Gaoithe suffered the heaviest blows as a result of the legal delays, losing its Contract for Difference from the government after missing a crucial financial deadline because of the RSPB case.
However, the project has since won back its CfD contract and its planning permission, and its developers Mainstream Renewable Power hope to proceed to construction phase next year.
“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,” Andy Kinsella, chief operating officer at Mainstream Renewable Power, said in a statement. “We are delighted with the decision and look forward to working constructively with the RSPB to take the wind farm into construction next year.”
Mainstream added it has made considerable changes to its original planning submission to accommodate concerns from the RSPB, including reducing the number of turbines from 125 to a maximum of 64.
Nevertheless, RSPB remains opposed to the project. RSPB Scotland director Anne McCall said she was disappointed by the Court’s decision, even if it was “not wholly unexpected”. The charity now plans to take some time to consider the details of the decision before deciding on its next steps, she added.
“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,” said McCall in a statement. “The issues under consideration by the Court go beyond simply the impacts of multiple developments on important seabird populations and explore wider issues, we therefore must consider the implications of the decision for all aspects of the case.”
The RSPB now has 28 days to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court directly to hear its plea.