After extensive consideration, Bute Forest Ltd (BFL) has decided not to locate a hydro scheme in the Balnakailly Burn. Feedback from Scottish Natural Heritage and the local community raised concerns about the impact of the hydro scheme on the integrity of the woodland and the loss of habitat resulting from the proposed 2 x 3m turbine house and pipeline.
SNH did not rule out a proposed scheme but told Bute Forest Ltd that they thought that “this proposal [would be] very hard to accommodate without unacceptable impact and loss of habitat”. They raised concern that “Even with mitigation, we consider that this proposal will raise natural heritage issues of national interest.” Local experts have also raised concerns in particular about the impact on the rare bryophytes and birds which thrive on the unique conditions present in the Oak woodland to the North of the community-owned forest.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) was also consulted as part of the hydro scheme feasibility study and responded more positively saying that the proposal “appear(s) to pass the SEPA sub 100kW guidance in regards to steepness of the depleted stretch, maximum abstraction volume and the mitigation proposed”. SEPA manage the licensing process for the hydro scheme under the Controlled Activity Regulations and take into account concerns raised by SNH and other stakeholders as part of their decision making processes.
Emma Cooper, Forest Manager, said “Whilst BFL is in favour of renewable energy this has to be managed in the right way. The feedback from SNH raised sufficient concern about the possibility of an adverse impact on this rare and special woodland site that the Directors of BFL have made the difficult decision not to pursue a hydro scheme in this particular area any further. We will continue to research other sites within the commercial forest”