The blanket bog in South Lanarkshire has been extensively damaged by years of commercial forestry, but now it could be saved by renewable energy developers.
Ecology experts say they are excited by plans from Hamilton-based Banks Renewables, which would see the vital habitat restored and protected.The company has applied to create a 26 turbine wind farm at Kype Muir and part of the planning application would involve felling a commercial forest, which provides a poor habitat for wildlife.
That will give ecologists a chance to raise the water levels and restore the fragile peat bog, which is a haven for rare plants and animals. It will also enable planting of native broadleaf woodlands, encouraging a much greater diversity of wildlife.
Dr Rachel Hirst, director of the Scottish office of Applied Ecology Ltd, was the independent expert who coordinated the original ecology study at the site, while she worked for Land Use Consultants.
She said: “This an exciting chance to restore a large area of bog habitat – which in ecological terms is of international importance – right in the heart of South Lanarkshire.
“It would be one of the only habitats of its kind in the area, as these bogs are rarely found in the south of Scotland. Usually they are in the north and west of the country.
“What is most exciting is that a restored blanket bog would be home to a wide number of interesting species including cranberry, blaeberry, bog asphodel, insect-eating plants called sundews and chunky bog mosses to name a few.
“Giving these species a chance to thrive once again in their natural environment helps them to survive and reproduce in the future. This is a great chance to preserve and protect part of our natural heritage, while encouraging biodiversity, and generating “clean” power.”
Blanket bog is listed on the EU Habitats Directive, and while it is rare globally, Scotland is renowned internationally as it holds a significant proportion of the habitat in Europe.
The Banks Renewables plan would restore 79 hectares of blanket bog, the equivalent of 96 football pitches. The restored bog would also links with surrounding woodland, heath land, acid grassland and marshy grassland.
The total 576 hectares of habitat involved – more than 700 football pitches – would create a vibrant and rich mosaic for varied and endangered wildlife, including black grouse and large heath butterflies.
As part of the ambitious habitat management plan staff from Banks Renewables would work with the Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission to work towards South Lanarkshire Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan.
Banks has already won plaudits for blanket bog restoration after land at Stanley Moss nature reserve was sold to Durham Wildlife trust for a nominal £1 fee earlier this year. The Trust will now restore the bog, which was ravaged by commercial forestry.
Colin Anderson, director at Banks Renewables, said: “We’ll be delighted if our proposals are given the go-ahead at Kype Muir as it will make such an important and beneficial impact on the local environment.
“Not only will our wind farm help reduce carbon emissions, but peat bogs are recognised as hugely important in the fight against climate change because they are nature’s most effective carbon stores. Peat actually contains about 65% of the world’s CO2.
“We’ve already proven that our developments can happily co-exist alongside nature reserves and other wildlife havens. We look forward to the chance to see that happen at Kype Muir and for a rare and important habitat to flourish again in South Lanarkshire.”
The project at Kype Muir could generate energy to power up to 58,000 homes and would displace up to 117,500 tonnes of CO2 annually from the atmosphere that would be released if the electricity was generated by fossil fuel powered electricity generation.
Power generated by wind farms will help Scotland continue to enjoy the constant, reliable energy supply modern life demands – and such wind farms have already reduced the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels imported from unstable overseas markets.
As part of its development with care approach, Banks Renewables identifies local community groups and voluntary organisations that it can support in the vicinity of its renewable energy developments.
The creation of the wind farm would also see 1.5% gross revenue from the wind farm going into a community benefits package which could be utilised to create opportunities for local people and community groups including job creation schemes and local projects. The wind farm would also offer economic benefits to the community through the creation of local contracts worth millions of pounds to local construction and support businesses.
Banks Renewables is part of the Banks Group (www.banksgroup.co.uk), a family firm founded in 1976, which now employs 380 people in the renewable energy, property and mining sectors.