Conservationists are calling for T in the Park organisers to take immediate action to relocate an osprey nest at the festival’s new venue before the iconic birds return to breed there in the next couple of weeks.
Festival promoters have outlined plans to rehome Scotland’s biggest music festival at an estate near Gleneagles in Perthshire after safety fears over an underground fuel pipeline forced them to abandon its venue for the past 18 years at Balado.
RSPB Scotland has not objected to the proposals but recommended several measures to protect wildlife on the 1,000-acre Strathallan Castle estate, including a pair of ospreys that have been nesting there for the past five years.
Around 85,000 revellers are expected at the three-day concert, being held in in July.
Now the charity is warning that time is running out and a clear plan to deal with ospreys and other wildlife must emerge in the next few days to ensure the event can go ahead without inflicting unnecessary harm.
The organisers have agreed to remove the existing eyrie and construct a new one before the ospreys return from Africa to breed.
The procedure is unusual in Scotland but has been carried out successfully in cases where the raptors have set up home too close to near power lines and must be moved for safety reasons.
RSPB Scotland has backed the plan, but insist the work must be completed in the next few days as ospreys have already begun returning to southern parts of the UK and the Strathallan pair are expected to arrive within the next fortnight.
A spokesperson for the conservation charity said: “The details of how T in the Park will avoid harming wildlife should have been sorted out many months ago.
“If it was well planned, there is no reason why T in the Park shouldn’t be able to happen at this site and result in no overall harm to wildlife – but we have yet to be given anything like the reassurances we need.
“Frustratingly, even though many of the music fans who go to T in the Park will also be fans of wildlife, it seems that giving Scotland’s nature a home is at the bottom of the promoter’s priority list.”
He added: “this positive action should have been taking place already to offset any potential impacts on wildlife and habitats.
“We are sure those planning to attend T in the Park this year would not want the festival to harm Scotland’s wildlife.”
A T in the Park spokeswoman confirmed that “a new, attractive eyrie” would be set up before the birds’ expected return.
She declined to give further details in order to help safeguard the birds, but said the new nest will be within the boundary of the estate “in an area that is far less likely to be disturbed by the festival”.
“We have been in constant engagement with the RSPB throughout this process and the feedback has been that they are comfortable with our strategy,” she said.
“Our mitigation plan is being carried out by a recognised ornithologist who is an expert on this protected species. The timing of works has been based on his advice.
From past experience, the ornithologist has every confidence that the returning ospreys will move into the new eyrie straight away.”
Ospreys have the highest level of legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so disturbing the birds once they have begun to nest could result in a criminal offence.
DF Concerts submitted an application for planning permission at the end of last month, and the local authority now has four months to consider the scheme.
The council has confirmed that a further 28-day public consultation will take place before the final decision is made.
A petition seeking to block the music festival has gained around 900 signatures, with many of the objectors living south of the border and in countries around the globe.
But a Facebook page entitled Auchterarder Welcomes T in the Park has received more than 3,000 likes.