Energy company Vattenfall is set to undergo a judicial review later this month regarding the planning permission granted by Scottish Ministers for its 77MW Clashindarroch 2 onshore wind farm. The challenge, initiated by conservation group Wildcat Haven, has been approved for a legal examination in the Court of Session, with concerns raised about potential habitat impacts on Scottish wildcats.
The substantive hearing is scheduled for January 18, during which a judge will consider arguments from Wildcat Haven, the Scottish government, and Vattenfall. The timeline for a ruling remains uncertain, with legal experts suggesting Easter as a likely decision date, barring unexpected delays.
Clashindarroch 2 secured consent for the installation of 14 turbines with 180-metre tip heights in June, following an appeal process. The wind farm is planned for construction in Aberdeenshire, adjacent to Vattenfall's existing 36.9MW Clashindarroch wind farm, situated within the Strathbogie Wildcat Priority Area.
Scottish wildcats, recognized as a European protected species and the only native cat species still found in the wild in Britain, are at the center of concerns. NatureScot, the country's nature agency, emphasizes their conservation significance.
Vattenfall aims to address these concerns by creating wildlife corridors linking Clashindarroch forest with surrounding woodlands and hiring a dedicated wildcat project officer to monitor the site for five years.
Frank Elsworth, Head of UK Onshore Wind Development at Vattenfall, asserted that Clashindarroch 1 has operated for over eight years without negatively impacting the wildcat population. Additionally, recent peat bog restoration and tree planting initiatives aim to provide further cover for wildcats to hunt and roam.
Elsworth noted that NatureScot has scrutinized the environmental impact assessment for Clashindarroch 2, endorsing the company's conclusions and proposed mitigation measures.