United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Supreme Court rejects wildlife charity's 2.3GW appeal

UNITED KINGDOM: The Supreme Court has given the go-ahead to nearly 2.3GW of projects off the east coast of Scotland after rejecting a bird conservation group's appeal.

The RSPB said the government did not fully consider the projects' impact on migratory birds such as the Atlantic Puffin
The RSPB said the government did not fully consider the projects' impact on migratory birds such as the Atlantic Puffin

The UK’s highest appellate court refused the Scottish wing of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) application for leave to appeal in its challenge to the planning process for four wind farms.

The contested projects are the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe (NnG), 784MW Inch Cape and Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo at 525MW apiece, all of which are set to be built in the North Sea.

Andy Kinsella, chief executive officer of Mainstream Renewable Power, which owns the 54-turbine Neart na Gaoithe project, said: "After more than two and a half years, two court hearings and two rejected applications for leave to appeal by RSPB Scotland, we can finally focus on delivering the very significant benefits this project brings to the Scottish economy and its environment."

Scottish Ministers had granted planning permission for 2,284MW of offshore capacity in October 2014.

But animal conservation group, the RSPB, claimed the projects would adversely affect some migratory bird species and the Scottish government failed to fully evaluate the impact on wildlife.

Scotland’s Outer House of the Court of Session had previously ruled in favour of the RSPB blocking the plans.

But in May, the Court of Session’s Inner House backed ministers’ decision to reinstate 2014 consent for the four projects.

The RSPB was unsuccessful in its appeal against the Scottish decision in July, and took its legal challenge to the UK Supreme Court in London.

The Supreme Court today (7 November) rejected the appeal.

Welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision, RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal, said: "Major infrastructure projects like Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm are vital for our country’s economic growth, as well as playing a key role in tackling climate change.

"With continued investment and innovation, offshore wind energy can be the backbone of the UK’s smart, clean power system."

Analysts at the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute found the NnG project would add roughly £475 million (€512 million) to Scotland’s gross domestic product (GDP) during the Capex phase of the project, and a further £352 million (€379 million) during the Opex period.

The site would also provide 13,900 person-years of employment over its lifetime, roughly 2,000 jobs during construction and 236 in the operation phase, the analysts found.

Construction of Neart na Gaoithe is due to start next year, Mainstream RP said, following a final investment decision. It will be backed by a Contract for Difference (CfD) support deal won in the UK's first auction in February 2015. The project is due online in 2020.

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