Just a Reminder…..

By Bernie Bell

This is the first time that I became aware of OIC’s intention to buy Faray….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/11/22/oic-to-buy-faray-holm-of-faray-and-red-holm/

Then, we heard of why ………….https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/04/27/oic-announces-orkneys-community-wind-farm-project/

And today – 11th of October  2021 – I looked at the Orkney Wildlife Facebook page and saw this post…………..

20 hrs  · 

“The Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus ) have been pupping on Faray for at least a couple of weeks now. There are more than 26 in this tiny part at West Bight alone, visible from the Westray ferry. This very distant photo illustrates the lack of disturbance they currently have , and the protections designated for the Grey seals of SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation). It is why they pup on Faray in such important numbers for Orkney, and for the UK.

Statutory advice given by SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) “identifies those operations, either on or affecting the SAC, which may cause deterioration of the marine natural habitats or the habitats of species, or disturbance of species, for which the site has been designated.”

These include Coastal Development (Agriculture, Civil engineering), Fishing (Static gear: Creel / Pot fishing), Gathering/Harvesting ( Intertidal collection of shellfish), Recreational Activities (Charter/Recreational vessels, Scuba diving) and Scientific Research.

Yet, somehow, a Licence to remove/deposit sediment/objects to/from seabed (Inc. dredging) and an application for Harbour Infrastructure is being considered in order to erect 6 Wind Turbines which will be the largest in Orkney at 149.9 metres.

Such inconsistencies in priorities are confusing! Do the (2000 IUCN Red List) Grey seals matter to Orkney, or don’t they?”

I haven’t included the name of the person who posted this, in case that person doesn’t want their name to appear – but reading this prompted me to remind folk that these plans for Faray are possibly quietly going ahead, and of what might be the result for wildlife.

I’m all for clean energy – but there are other sites for wind turbines. Personally – I believe that we have enough of them anyway – but that is just my opinion.

It isn’t just my opinion that Faray is an important site for the seals, and probably other forms of marine life and wildlife in general.

Part of the idea of having green energy and cutting our carbon emissions is to help the creatures inhabiting this planet – and that includes the seals of Faray.

This is just a reminder – presenting how the tale has developed, and adding my own tuppenceworth.  

Things stop being in the news, folk let issues slip from their awareness, and next thing, we have scenarios like that in George MacKay Brown’s novel ‘Greenvoe’. https://www.orcadian.co.uk/shop/george-mackay-brown/107-greenvoe.html

‘Development’ – isn’t everything

Since I wrote the above, there has been another view presented on the Orkney Wildlife Facebook page…..

“Realise I’m slightly sticking my head above the parapet here, but I think it’s important to do so. My name’s Kirsty. I work for the Project Team who’ve been tasked with looking at the proposals for a wind farm on Faray. I’m a council employee who’s been asked to do a piece of work by her employers, not the owner of or a shareholder in a private company thats set to benefit directly from any project. For that reason, please, be kind. Whilst completely appreciating people’s concerns about the proposed development on Faray, some of the comments and criticism levelled at the Council’s project team has tended to get quite personal – which is unfortunate in a small community.

Please do not think for one minute that we’ve somehow ignored Faray’s designation. Previously, we laid out some of the work that has gone into the design of the Faray site and the considerations that had been given to the timing of any works that might take place – in order to minimise the potential impacts on the grey seal population attached to Faray – this was covered here – https://kirstygroundwater.wixsite.com/…/faray-seals-how….

I thought it might be useful at this point to explain the next steps. Now that the local authority planning consultation is complete, the application and all responses received have been handed over to the Scottish Government. As the Applicant it’s likely we’ll be asked by the Scottish Government to provide responses to the responses received – and the issue of the Faray seals will again feature heavily in that. The Scottish Government are currently assigning a Reporter to the case and so I expect that process to get underway soon.

It’s worth me making clear at this point too that there’s been no decision by Orkney Islands Council to definitely go ahead with the project. All we’re tasked with just now is identifying sites for the potential projects and then seeking an independent opinion from the Scottish Government on whether these sites are suitable or not. In reaching this opinion – i.e. granting planning permission or not – they’ll weigh up all the different factors, including the perceived benefits of the project, potential environmental impacts, and any mitigations being proposed. If we do get planning permission from the Scottish Government, the Council would then move on to the stage of weighing up various factors of the project as a council – before making a decision whether to proceed or not.

We absolutely recognise the concerns that people have about the potential impacts of the project and encourage people to engage with us on them. Happy to receive emails at kirsty.groundwater@orkney.gov.uk “

I‘m agin’ the ’development’ of Faray, but I’m also agin’ Council employees being got at for doing their job within the expectations/limitations imposed on them.

A contentious issue, with many aspects to be taken into consideration in many ways.

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