The purpose of this document is to stimulate discussion on the correct approach to assessing development impacts on carbon-rich soils, deep peat and priority peatland habitats. These three headline topics are referred to in Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) 2014 Table 1 as “nationally important mapped environmental interests” (Scottish Government, 2014). The table advises that in such areas development of wind farms may be appropriate in some circumstances. Developers are asked to demonstrate that “any significant effects on the qualities of these areas can be substantially overcome by siting, design or other mitigation”.
This document aims to provide an overview of the way industry assesses impacts on peatlands and discusses the principles of environmental and ecological impact assessment best practice in terms of avoidance, minimisation and compensation/
It is hoped that this document will stimulate discussion on the topics set out in the conclusions. In summary:
- There is an urgency for industry and all other stakeholders to work towards ensuring that onshore wind development on Scotland’s peatlands will contribute to Scotland's biodiversity, thus avoiding unnecessary project level debate on the principle of this win-win outcome.
- It is more important than ever to work towards a consistent approach to the assessment of the impacts of onshore wind development on peatlands by industry, decision makers and consultees in the planning process.
- The authors feel that a reset is required to enable a new start to a collaborative approach by all stakeholders. This is needed to realise the twin aims of renewable energy development and the protection and enhancement of Scotland’s peatlands. This will help to effectively combat the climate emergency and achieve net zero. All stakeholders need to set aside past debates and focus on these objectives. If this discussion document stimulates a productive and lasting new approach it will have succeeded.