Campaigners opposed to T In The Park taking place at the Strathallan Estate in Perthshire, which include the Woodland Trust and the RSPB, have secured what they say is a defining victory against promoters DF and the Estate owners, Jamie and Debs Roberts. Whilst the local authority is still considering arguments on both sides over whether the 80,000 capacity festival can take place from 10-12 July, the RSPB, who had already noted that ospreys traditionally nest near the Estate, have said the protected birds have returned. Under the Wildlife And Countryside Act it is a criminal offence to disturb ospreys during the breeding season. Although the ospreys’ long-term roosting spot is not on the Strathallan Estate itself, STV reports that a 2500 foot ‘buffer zone’ would be required around the nest if T went ahead there, and that would significantly cut into the planned festival site. DF had reportedly hired experts to try to persuade the ospreys to nest in a alternative nesting space and DF contractors had been using using kites, balloons and an extended cherry-picker crane near the old nest to try to divert the birds to the new site. The RSPB has dubbed these attempts “unethical and unacceptable”. However the birds have now returned to their original nesting spot.
James Reynolds of RSPB Scotland told reporters: “We are aware that the ospreys have been reported at the nest site and indeed we have some video footage that shows one of them alighting on the nest with a stick”. He went on: “This blatantly means this is now an active nest and is protected from disturbance, so the cherry picker should have been removed immediately. I was informed that that did not take place and contacted Police Scotland to make them aware of that. As this nest is closer to the main festival activity, the risk that the birds will be disturbed by the festival has increased and that will be reflected in our response to the planning application”. A spokesperson for DF said that the RSPB’s video “does not correspond with the ongoing monitoring from our ornithologist on site”, meaning that the promoter is not yet convinced the ospreys have indeed set up home in their original nest. The spokesperson added: “We are fully aware of and compliant with the legal protocol and as such, we have asked the police and RSPB to seek further information so that the video’s authenticity can be fully examined. We have removed the cherry picker while we wait for this information”. Police were called to the scene on Monday and are investigating.
However, after the news about the Osprey’s return broke, Xfm reported that a spokesperson for festival organiser DF concerts “We can confirm that ospreys have returned to Strathallan, but the expert opinion of our ornithologist is that they have not yet nested. In the meantime, we’d also like to assure fans that the festival will go ahead. The decision on our planning application will still be made in May and we remain confident that the event will take place at Strathallan.” DF boss Geoff Ellis told the BBC: “We are in daily contact with the RSPB and we will be working very closely with them. Whichever nest the birds take to we will work with them to agree an appropriate exclusion zone and manage it accordingly. We guarantee to do that and we’d be bound by the law to do it anyway. We will work with the RSPB so that T In The Park can continue at its new home at Strathallan Castle and the ospreys can co-exist with the festival” and Ellis said he said that his team were capable of adapting the way they use to site to accommodate the local birds of prey. Noting that DF had to work around a pipeline at their old site at Balado, he said his team were used to changing site plans saying “We used to have to [change our site plans] at Balado almost every year with the changes in the HSE guidelines to the pipeline. The one thing about a music festival is you build it up from scratch each year. It’s just a case of re-plotting positions of things on site. It’s extra work obviously but certainly it’s not a show stopper in any form”.