SSE drops Waterhead Moor wind farm over 'bird fears'

Female hen harrier in flight Much of Waterhead Moor was a protected site for hen harriers

A major energy firm has withdrawn its planning application to develop a 29-turbine wind farm at Waterhead Moor near Largs, North Ayrshire.

SSE - formerly Scottish and Southern Electric - said the decision had been made due to "a range of construction and planning challenges" over the site.

Most of the wind farm fell within a Special Protection Area, designated due to its importance for hen harriers.

SSE's decision was welcomed by RSPB Scotland, which had opposed the scheme.

Start Quote

We have always maintained this is an unsuitable place for a wind farm”

End Quote Aedán Smith RSPB Scotland

SSE said its decision had been taken "following extensive consultation with key stakeholders and in consideration of investment priorities".

The firm said the proposals to construct a 72.5MW wind farm had been "initiated prior to the site being designated as a European Special Protection Area which also added complexity".

David Gardner, SSE's director of onshore renewables, said: "This site had the wind resource and the site dynamics to be a very good project, but having listened to the concerns of the key consultees we have concluded that the reasonable action to take is to focus our resources on onshore wind farms elsewhere.

"We are grateful to all those who took part in the project consultations."

RSPB Scotland said it "applauded" the energy firm's decision to withdraw its planning application.

'Serious concerns'

The charity said it had been urging SSE to drop plans to develop the site after raising "serious concerns" as far back as 2004.

It was still not satisfied when a modified planning application was submitted to Scottish ministers last year.

Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said: "It is very encouraging that they (SSE) give part of their reason for their withdrawal as being due to the environmental importance of the site.

"This area was proposed for SPA designation before SSE submitted their application and we have always maintained this is an unsuitable place for a wind farm.

"We hope that they will apply similar thinking and consideration to other sites where there are environmental concerns."

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