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    Sea eagle fears over plans for wind farm


    August 17, 2022 - Caithness Courier

     

      Recent sightings of white-tailed sea eagles in a north Sutherland village have led to calls for a planned wind farm to be put on hold.

      Armadale couple Paul and Laura Morgan claim the potential threat to the rare species needs to be re-assessed.

      And they believe Brookfield Renewables UK Ltd’s planning application should in the meantime be put on the back burner.

      The couple are among 65 objectors to the 10, 150-metre high turbines the company wants to put up on a tract of hill land overlooking the north coast village.

      The Morgans’ concern about the sea eagles – the UK’s largest bird of prey – is shared by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

      Mr Morgan and his wife (both 47) are bird lovers and have each made several sightings over the past couple of years, including two spotted last month.

      Mr Morgan, who runs a welding fabrication business, is concerned the sightings are not included in the ornithology study used to support the planning application.

      "We’re not sure if there are any nests locally but these birds cover a hell of a distance and if you put these massive turbines on their flightpath, they are going to get killed."

      The couple point out that the Highland Raptor Study Group had previously been unaware of sea eagles in the area. The Morgans also point to a research paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management which concludes that wind farms should be constructed outside the main distribution areas of white-tailed sea eagles.

      They insist that since there are only believed to be 40 or so nesting pairs in Scotland, this restriction should apply to the Armadale scheme.

      In its response to the application, the RSPB supports the need for a follow-up survey. It states that a successful nest was found in 2020 about 11 kilometres from the site and that it is aware of an increase in white-tailed eagle flight activity in the area over the past couple of years.

      Concerned that potential impacts on the species have been 'under-estimated’, the RSPB has asked Brookfield to carry out a new assessment.

      But the company defended its environmental impact assessment and insisted neither residents, birdlife nor the ecology would be unduly affected by the development. Its bird studies were completed over two breeding seasons between 2017 and 2019.

      A spokesperson said: "With the planning application now with the relevant authorities for determination, Armadale Wind Farm is pro-actively responding to representations from statutory consultees. An interim response has been provided to the Energy Consents Unit in July."

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