The Herald

Claws for concern as wildcat ‘at risk’ from new wind farm

Campaigner­s fear seven-turbine site will disturb breeding season

- JODY HARRISON

FEARS have been raised for the future of the Scottish wildcat because of a wind turbine project which campaigner­s claim will ruin its native habitat.

Campaigner­s have opened up new fronts in their battle against the seven-turbine Tullymurdo­ch wind farm at Alyth, Perthshire, after losing their initial court case.

Those opposed to the scheme warn it will disturb the breeding season of one of the few remaining “queen” wildcats known to live in the area, and want the local council to ensure any works will take place in the months outside this period.

They have launched a petition calling on Perth and Kinross Council to ensure any building work takes place outside of the months between March and August, when the wildcat may be nurturing young.

Helen Douglas, who lives nearby, has also launched an appeal at the Inner House seeking to stop the wind farm after losing her first case against developer RDS Element Power Limited at the Court of Session.

Despite facing bankruptcy, the shepherd had hoped to try to stop the firm’s plans for the green energy scheme, only to have a judge rule in the company’s favour.

The firm was previously granted permission to install the turbines and 11.8 miles of undergroun­d cables linking the Tullymurdo­ch wind farm to another green energy scheme at Welton of Creuchies. The cables would also connect the two wind farms to a primary sub station in Coupar Angus.

Launching the petition, Ms Douglas said: “We believe the survival of a species that is critically endangered should not be compromise­d by the scramble for subsidies by a multinatio­nal company. There are so few wildcats left that one breeding season for one female is crucial to the whole species.”

The female wildcat is believed to have bred on the proposed wind farm site for the past two years.

She is one of at most a couple of dozen “pure” females estimated to be left in Scotland, and therefore vital to the animals’ survival.

The petition, on the 38 degrees website, states: “The wind farm has planning permission and some conditions have been set to protect wildcat. On a neighbouri­ng site, Scottish Natural Heritage advised avoidance of any activity March-August.

“At Tullymurdo­ch, however, a spokesman said this would be ‘the ideal’ but ‘this is a bigger developmen­t where there is more money at stake for the developer, and as it is easier for constructo­rs to work in the summer months we have not set the same condition.’ The Planning Authority is not obliged to restrict its conditions to those advised by Scottish Natural Heritage. In order to comply with the law, we urge that the site, and the cable route, remain undisturbe­d until September 2017.”

A council spokesman said: “A comprehens­ive suite of planning conditions were imposed as part of the 2014 consent and as part of the 2015 consent subject to the legal challenge. These included conditions that catered for the protection of wildcats as well as other protected species and wildlife.

“The developer has now begun the turbine developmen­t at Tullymurdo­ch on the basis of their 2014 planning consent.”

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