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Community Windpower are Extremely Disappointed by RSPBs Campaign to Snub Spango - 15th January

Spango Community Wind Farm

RSPB Scotland have actively tried to hinder the planning application for Spango Community Wind Farm through a public campaign claiming that the proposed development will have an ‘unacceptable’ environmental impact.

Community Windpower are extremely disappointed with this reaction, as through the resubmission, the Developers have demonstrated that the wind farm could actually enhance the ecological and ornithological conditions of the local area.

Spango Community Wind Farm is located on an area of moorland found on the fringe of the Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands Special Protection Area (SPA). Although the wind farm is located just within a conservation area, the SPA is of poor quality, with 3 out of the 5 qualifying species being deemed as being in an unfavourable condition. Recovery of these species is unlikely under the present management on site, and for some species groups, evidence suggests that their condition will worsen unless remedial action is taken.

This unfavourable status has been confirmed in writing by Scottish Natural Heritage with a number of letters (letter references: SIT/SSSI/8166/MON, SIT/SPA/8616/MON and SIT/SSSI/8161/MON) stating that ‘the population of breeding hen harriers within the SPA has declined to zero since it was first monitored’ and that ‘these findings are disappointing.’

Through the development of Spango Community Wind Farm, current problems contributing to the unfavourable conditions of the SPA will be addressed. A program of mitigation measures and enhancement works has been proposed for the construction and operation of the wind farm, which will see a significant positive investment in the ecological value of the area.

This program of mitigation includes ways to minimise disturbance and potential impacts on key species; ways to reduce the unfavourable conditions of the SPA; how the value of the area can be improved by changes in land management; and how the overall biodiversity can increase through management targeted at specific species.

The resubmission of Spango Community Wind Farm has endeavoured to bring the areas of the SPA back to a more favourable condition through investment in the conservation of the area, which otherwise would not occur.

The RSPB have recently come under scrutiny by a number of farmers and conservationist during the ‘You Forgot the Birds’ campaign, which aims to see the RSPB reform. In a famously published letter, Sir Ian Botham accused the RSPB of ‘spending donated millions on TV ads and a £56m pension deficit while ‘forgetting the birds’ ’. One of Scotland’s largest landowners has also joined the campaign, stating that ‘the RSPB has lost the plot and are out of control. They seem more intent on continuing to raise vast sums of money rather than performing their primary role of conservation and promoting the growth of protected species.’

The ‘You Forgot the Birds’ campaign has already scored one notable success. Following a complaint to the Charity Commission, the RSPB has been ordered to stop claiming that 90 per cent of its £128 million income ‘goes directly to conservation work’. The commission says it must make clear that the 90 per cent claim did not take account of the cost of fundraising, on which the RSPB spends £21 million a year.

Another example of RSPBs stance on wind farm developments is shown through their legal battle over four major consented offshore wind farm projects found off the east coast of Scotland. Consent was given by the Scottish Ministers under strict conditions to mitigate any potential environmental impact, and backing was given by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth Scotland, however, RSPB Scotland are still challenging the developments.

Many local people from the area have shown their support for the scheme, stating that ‘as someone [local] aware of the designated area, in my opinion, this land has deteriorated whilst under the scheme management, with fewer fauna and poor flora’ and ‘what an opportunity for the relevant authorities to obtain and create the conservation ideals for this local area, which will be totally funded by Community Windpower Ltd.’

Without the Spango Community Wind Farm development, it is more than likely that the condition of the SPA would continue to worsen to further decline unless remedial action is taken; and it is disappointing that RSPB Scotland have failed to see the benefit that the wind farm could have on the conservation area.

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