CONTROVERSIAL plans to erect giant wind turbines in West Somerset have suffered a dramatic setback after the influential Royal Society for the protection of birds has come out against the scheme at Hinkley Point.

It's the first time the influential organisation has objected to a proposed wind farm in the South West.

Richard Archer, conservation officer for the RSPB in Somerset, told the County Gazette: "This is not a decision we have taken lightly, as we are generally in support of schemes to reduce our carbon footprint and combat global warming."

He said the current resubmitted application to build nine giant turbines, each nearly 400 feet high, on a site next to Hinkley Point nuclear power station, could seriously disturb birds such as Shelduck, Ringed Plover, and Curlew using the Severn Estuary, a Special Protection Area under the European Birds Directive, for feeding.

"The inter-tidal areas are vital feeding areas for birds over-wintering in the area, and we are concerned that noise and movement of the proposed turbines could drive the birds away from their feeding areas," said Mr Archer.

"It is important that birds are able to use all areas of the estuary exposed at low tide for feeding.

"If there's permanent disturbance the birds will not use the area," he said.

An application for 12 turbines was thrown out by West Somerset Council's planning committee in 2005.

About 200 people attended a meeting at which concerns were raised over potential damaged which could be caused if a turbine blade came off, visual impact on the landscape, and the effect on wildlife in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Developer Your Energy resubmitted its application in November, removing three turbines closest to the nuclear plant to allay safety fears.

The company has claimed the new scheme would generate enough energy for 10,200 households in West Somerset, but objectors say the installed capacity of the wind farm will be reduced because of "poor wind resource" at Hinkley.

A spokesman for West Somerset Council said no date had been set for the planning committee to consider the revised application.