Fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) are a finite resource, it is therefore essential to find renewable alternatives. BASC understands that, as part of a renewable energy strategy, wind farms are one of a number of possible options. Alternatives include tidal and wave power, burning energy crops and solar power. Wind power is popular at the moment because it is thought to be cost-effective. Other forms of renewable energy will become more popular in the future as commercial viability increases.
BASC does not oppose the development of wind farms as such, recognising the importance of sustainable energy. However, where wind farm developments threaten shooting, members will want to know how to make representation to either oppose or influence the development in some way.
Throughout the UK, wind farm developers have to follow a standard process before they can start to build. This involves making the public aware of the proposal; usually details are published in local papers, at libraries and other public buildings. Developers must produce and publish an environmental statement on the possible impact of the planned development. The environmental statement is open to public scrutiny, and will be commented on by the statutory conservation agencies (Natural Resources Wales, Natural England, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage) together with NGOs like the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts. It is at this stage that people who shoot can make representation.
Key areas to consider when faced with a wind farm development include:
- The impact of disturbance to birds, leading to displacement, exclusion or the creation of a barrier to movement with the possibility of collision mortality.
- The impact of the foundations for the turbine.
- The impact of the cables from the turbines to the national grid, whether over or underground.
- The impact of any constructions – roads, substations etc.
BASC members are most likely to get involved because of their local knowledge of bird movements. Where members have information that challenges the content or accuracy of the environmental statement they should respond saying why they think it is wrong, outlining what they know about bird movements, and over what period of time these observations have been made. Letters should be copied to the regional offices of the statutory conservation agency and RSPB. These organisations are keen to ensure that wind farm developments do not impact on wildlife and they will be grateful for any information you can provide.
The nearest local office for either statutory conservation agencies or the RSPB can be obtained from their websites.
Photograph credit: Paul Glendell/English Nature