Viking Energy has turned down a request from protest group Sustainable Shetland for a month-long extension to the consultation period for the recently-published addendum to its plan for a huge windfarm in the isles.
The statutory period required is four weeks, which Viking has increased to six weeks – meaning the consultation will run until 19th November. The company, a partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy, is hopeful there will be a ruling on consent for the contentious 127-turbine, £685 million project from Scottish minister Jim Mather before next May’s elections to Holyrood.
Sustainable Shetland – which has 678 members – had asked for the consultation period to be extended until 17th December, but a letter from the Scottish government’s energy consents unit stated that “the developer does not wish to make an already lengthy process any longer and so they have not agreed to a further extension”.
In response, Sustainable Shetland’s vice-chairman Kevin Learmonth said: “In refusing to grant an extension, Viking Energy have signalled their intention to attempt to push this application through with unseemly haste, and force their plans on the people of Shetland.
“This revised planning application was nearly a year in the making. A six-week public consultation period is a poor excuse for democracy or consultation. Many parts of the addendum refer back to the original planning impact assessment, itself also several hundred pages long.
“To release the revised planning application just as many families begin a two-week long October holiday, and with many people away from Shetland, is a cynical and underhand manoeuvre by Viking Energy.
“It would be interesting to know if this decision to refuse an extension was taken alone by Viking Energy in Shetland, or if project partners SSE were also involved in the decision to refuse people sufficient time to consider the application.”
Viking Energy project coordinator Allan Wishart said the addendum was not a completely new application and, having extended the statutory period by a fortnight, he feels the public and consultees are being given ample time.
“It’s very well set out what is new and what remains the same as the original application,” he said. “The company thinks it’s very reasonable to have extended it for two weeks, which we didn’t have to do, and will give consultees plenty of time.
“We’ve not had any applications from any of the statutory consultees to extend it so far. It’s actually seven weeks from the date of the first advert, so in truth for people who are really interested it is a seven-week period. The council has another four weeks thereafter, and we have to stick with the deadlines we set.”
Mr Wishart said he did not want to respond to the assertion that Viking was behaving in a “cynical and underhand” way, other than to say he felt such talk was needlessly “inflammatory”.
Anyone who wants to support or object to the proposal should contact the energy consents unit before Friday 19th November by email to EnergyConsents@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or by writing to: Energy Consents and Deployment Unit, Scottish Government, 4th Floor, 5 Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow, G2 8LU.