A programme of ecological and ornithological surveys have been carried out on the site. The results will be used to assess potential impacts and identify suitable mitigation as required.

In addition, opportunities for biodiversity enhancements that the development could deliver will be explored in consultation with specialist interest groups and as part of the EIA process.

Ornithology surveys

There are no statutory designations with ornithological features within the site.

The Glen Etive and Glen Fyne Special Protection Area (SPA) is located within 20 km of the Proposed Development and the qualifying feature designated is golden eagle. After considering the distance between this designated site and the Proposed Development, the foraging distance for the relevant qualifying feature provided by NatureScot and following consultation with NatureScot, there is considered to be no connectivity between the Proposed Development, and this designated site.

A comprehensive survey programme has been undertaken to identify the use of the site and its wider surroundings by sensitive bird populations. The data gathered between 2020 and 2022 will form part of the baseline assessment.

The following ornithology surveys will form the baseline for the assessment:

  • flight activity surveys;
  • black grouse surveys;
  • scarce breeding bird surveys;
  • moorland bird surveys; and
  • winter walkover surveys

Results of these baseline surveys have been used to inform the layout and design of the Proposed Development as well as mitigation measures to minimise or negate effects such as habitat loss. Mitigation measures will be provided in the form of a Habitat Management Plan for the site.

Ecology surveys

The site has undergone a suite of ecological surveys, including a desk study for historic records, habitat surveys and protected species surveys, to gain an understanding of the area’s ecological context to inform the EIA and to ensure adherence with relevant legislation. All surveys were carried out in accordance with the best practice guidance.

The closest designated site is the Glen Nant section of the Loch Etive Woods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is designated for upland oak woodlands and associated invertebrates and bryophytes. It is >1.5km away from the site.

A variety of habitats characteristic of upland sites were recorded across the site. The terrain comprised a complex of steep-sided hills and valleys. The habitats comprised mostly of a mosaic of wet heath and blanket bogs, interspersed with areas of acid and marshy grassland. The very steep and rocky slopes supported a mosaic of dry heath and acid grassland. Several watercourses were present across the site, a few of which were flanked by small remnants of deciduous woodland and willow scrub.

As peatland habitats are of particular interest and importance due to their potential carbon sequestration capabilities a Peatland Condition Assessment has been carried out across the site. The condition of peatland habitats, along with other habitat sensitivities have been used to inform the project design layout.

There are a number of watercourses on site which would potentially offer suitable habitat for otter and water vole; evidence of occasional otter use of the site was recorded on one of these watercourses.

Bat activity surveys were carried out using bat detectors across the site. Early analysis of this data has shown low levels of use of the site by species such as common and soprano pipistrelle.

Habitat enhancement measures will form an integral part of the project and will include large-scale peatland restoration and riparian woodland creation. This will not only support the local biodiversity but will support Scotland’s commitment of reaching net zero emissions by 2045 and thereby tackling the climate change emergency.