The Shetland Islands Council planning board met on 21st April to discuss an application from Viking Energy to erect three data masts. A new planning condition was circulated as the meeting began.
The minutes for the meeting say: “In response to a question from the Chairperson, the Service Manager confirmed that the additional condition would ensure no activity in the area during the bird breeding season”. I heard this said, so did all councillors present, but the Viking Energy project officer standing outside the room may not have heard quite so clearly.
Note the words of the minute: no activity and bird breeding season. No mention of allowing work in the breeding season if mitigation measures were in place.
The committee duly gave permission, on the basis of this clear and unambiguous information from a planning official.
On Sunday 30th May Sustainable Shetland succeeded in persuading the sub-contractor to halt work on erecting the third mast at Scalla Field. The main contractor on-site appeared to be a Viking Energy shareholder and uncle of a Viking Energy employee.
The following day the planning department said construction of these masts could re-commence. This is the exact opposite of what the planning board had been told. Something is seriously wrong in the working relationship between the planning board, the planning department and a developer closely associated with this council.
Any other developer may be excused for not knowing about the existence of council minutes and plead ignorance. There is no such excuse for Viking Energy: three councillors act as directors, one councillor is employed as a project co-coordinator and all remaining councillors are connected as trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust which has a 45 per cent stake in the project.
Something has gone wrong here, and it stinks.