A long awaited public inquiry into the controversial Strathy South windfarm, originally scheduled to start later this year, has been delayed by at least four weeks.
The developers, SSE, have confirmed that they plan to pursue a slightly smaller, 39 turbine scheme on the peatland site, rather than the 47 turbine scheme which they had consulted the public on earlier this year.
The developers will now be required to carry out an additional four week consultation on the revised scheme. After this has been completed, a date will be set for a Pre-Inquiry Meeting at which the dates for the inquiry itself will be set.
It now seems likely that the inquiry will not start until next year.
RSPB Scotland have been longstanding opponents of the project, as the windfarm is surrounded by internationally important wildlife sites and is in the heart of the Flow Country peatlands, an area being considered for World Heritage Site status.
Aedán Smith, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Planning and Development said: "A windfarm here would prevent this already damaged site from ever reaching its full potential for nature conservation. RSPB Scotland is particularly concerned about greenshank, hen harrier and red-throated diver – all of which are threatened by possible collisions with the planned turbines. Some of these birds could even end up abandoning the site entirely, because of the planned development.
"It is heartening that SSE do at least acknowledge that this site is important for wildlife, and the removal of these turbines will reduce the risk to birds to some extent.
“ However, SSEs plans would still be for 39 turbines, forming a major commercial windfarm, right in the heart of one of the most important wildlife sites in Europe.
“We need windfarms to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions which are harming wildlife across the world but the vast majority do not pose so much threat to our most important wildlife sites. Of the hundreds of onshore windfarm proposals that RSPB Scotland have scrutinised, this is one of the most concerning we have seen in recent years and we urge SSE to abandon their plans for this sensitive site and instead focus their efforts on delivering the many sites in their portfolio that don't pose such a threat to wildlife."